I’m a rugby union tragic.
I loved playing the game until one too many concussions meant I shouldn’t run on ever again.
I love watching local games.
A highlight of my sporting year used to be watching our Wallabies in national games.
Unfortunately, our team seem locked in a cycle that erodes the talent and confidence of those who work so hard to earn a position.
Our rugby leadership appear to be making familiar mistakes, ensuring our team fail to miss their own and everyone’s expectations as other rugby nations shine.
The simple response has been another commitment to renewed ‘reflection’.
The more challenging response is better priorities.
Better priorities are tough.
For Australian Rugby.
And also for financial advisory firms.
THE OLD PRIORITIES
The primary objective driving most financial advice firms is to earn consistent profits.
To achieve this, priorities have to adapt.
For instance, the priorities needed to grow advisory firms differ from those required to start firms.
At the beginning of a firm’s life, a priority on generating revenue is smarter than a priority on pretty much everything else.
However, sometime after start-up, prioritising more revenue will generate more problems than most growing firms are ready and able to manage.
For instance, founders who can earn, say, $400/hour but can’t delegate their $50/hour tasks will only be worth $50/hour and wonder why they are working nearly every waking hour just trying to keep up.
Founders too focused on perfection won’t be as happy with themselves or their team’s performances as those focused on progress.
Hiring staff based on their costs rather than their return on investment is akin to gambling a firm’s future on the horrible odds of recruiting unknown superstars.
Managing growth based on revenues rather than profits makes the challenges increasingly expensive, the risks increasingly more considerable, and the enjoyment increasingly rare.
The old priorities eventually makes success feel incredibly busy and usually sap the life out of the founders.
Believing bigger is better, some firms are so wedded to the priorities that served their foundations that they seek out and buy other firms too exhausted, stuck, frustrated, or broke to continue their growth alone.
The novelty of these promising amalgamations wears off quickly as the marriage uncovers new fundamental vulnerabilities in the core functions of HR, IT, compliance, propositions, pricing, alliances or governance. Untested amalgamation assumptions usually fail just at the same time when the point of no return has already passed.
What to do?
Start the endless and costly systemisation cycle.
WORK ON THE BUSINESS RATHER THAN IN THE BUSINESS
Michael Gerber has a lot to answer for.
He is both a genius and a villain.
Genius for simplifying the complications that always arise as result of success, hard work and determination.
Villian for assuming those successful at working in the business will be as successful at working on the business.
The financial advice industry has been stuck in a systemisation cycle for nearly two decades.
The next new system will fix everything all the other old systems failed to do.
Once we get through this amalgamation embedded…
Once we get the new CRM…
Once we get self-licensed…
Once we get the new team member…
Once we get the new office…
Once the new bonus program is implemented…
Once the paraplanning is outsourced…
Once we get the new website…
The list of new distracting systems keep growing and growing while the old priorities remain the same.
“I’m not the problem here!”
“They’re my client. I will decide how we proceed!”
“You’re not ready!”
“We’ve tried that, it never worked!”
“I can’t charge clients that!”
“I’m too busy to make the team meeting!”
“Why would we do that?”
Focusing on systemising rather than prioritising will guarantee everyone remains as busy as bees.
It is so much easier for busy firms to focus on the next ‘new idea’ or exciting ‘novelty’ that has ‘tremendous potential’ rather than a fundamental challenge to the old priorities encrusted deep into the firm’s culture that believe better results are just the next new initiative away.
So continues the love affair with new systems.
The reality is that new priorities suck.
They are less of a novelty and more like tough, hard work.
When new priorities eventually push team members outside their comfort zones without quick, enduring and promised results, the old priorities become very attractive again.
When adopting new priorities, the inevitable “this-isn’t-working” stage requires additional leadership, skills and confidence.
Expecting those team members capable of working ‘in’ the business to have the skills set to best work ‘on’ the business is a massive expectation and a dangerous assumption of ability.
The shift from being a successful ‘operationalist’ (working in the business) to being a successful ‘strategist’ (working on the business) has to be treated as more than a birth-right if firms are to release themselves from the administrative quicksand created due to constant systemisation.
To understand the value and role of priorities, particularly new ones, it helps to reflect upon what you are most proud of.
The most anticipated games of rugby, or any sport, are the well-contested, hard matches between top-performing teams.
The same goes for priorities.
The most rewarding decisions are generally those firmly founded on priorities and beliefs that went against the odds, the commonsense, following the safe, predictable and well-trodden paths.
Because new priorities will inevitably make you want to give up when circumstances get tough.
They will make you realise you may be part of the problem.
They will be more challenging than you or anyone expected to implement.
When you already feel over-invested, they will demand more effort with additional unsettling change.
They will also make you most proud of what you’ve achieved.
Of what you’ve withstood.
Of what really is important to you, and what you want to be known for.
New priorities build new firms from old firms.
Of course it will be more challenging than everyone expected.
That’s what makes their impact better than expected.
We all need new priorities.
We are just never ready for them.
What do you reckon?
Photo credit: pixabay_eliasschon
ABOUT JIM STACKPOOL
For over 30 years, Jim has influenced, coached, and consulted financial advisory firms across Australia. He founded a training firm, Certainty Advice Group, to coach, skill and build advisory firms delivering comprehensive, unconflicted advice with fees priced purely on client value. He is growing a collaborative community of advisory firms aligned to his firm’s comprehensive advice model – Certainty Advice – Australia’s only Certification Mark accredited by ACCC and IP Australia for impartial financial advice. He presents at conferences, has judged professional advice awards, written industry white papers, chaired practice management curriculums for tertiary institutions, and authored four books on financial advice – his latest released last year – What Price Value.