Read Dan and Chip Heath’s 2017 book – The Power of Moments?
For advisory teams who believe their growth is attached to their client’s growth, it’s a good read. If you only read one chapter, start at Chapter 6 – Stretch for Insight. It stood out for me because it confirms the tactics I’ve seen in some great advisory business plans.
THE WRONG PLAN
The wrong business plan or no business plan, makes a firm’s or individual’s ‘status quo’ the default plan.
Following a ‘status quo’ plan entails doing more of the same with good intent to advance as soon as more time magically appears once the current ‘issues’ are tackled. Trouble is today’s current issues will be soon replaced by tomorrow’s current issues.
It’s an ironic situation many advisory firms find themselves in considering they spend their professional lives helping their clients plan for their best future, but can’t seem to plan themselves beyond the dominating issue of today.
The ‘status quo’ plan confuses advisory firms into short-term activity planning rather than where their growth occurs – in higher, long-term productivity.
The classic ‘status quo’ plans focus on making back-office functions more efficient, hiring the needed team member, considering yet another software solution, updating the client pricing models, tweaking the ideal client profile or finding a new third-party provider. All these issues are fundamental and important to running a better advisory firm, but they rarely fund the future growth into true potential.
Science doesn’t support our business planning either.
Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky provided the proof with their Loss Aversion theory. It proves we fear losses and the steps that might upset today’s status quo, more than we are enthused by the returns we might gain. The known status quo, even with all its issues, is subconsciously preferred by most of us, compared to the unknown future with potentially even more unknown issues.
So, what is the right plan?
THE RIGHT PLAN
The Heath’s discussion about stretching nails it.
The right plan motivates, supports and provides the steps for firms and people to ‘stretch’.
To quote the Heath’s “…to stretch is to place ourselves in situations that expose us to the risk of failure”.
The right plan risks failure at the individual and firm level.
This failure could be ‘you-might-look-like-an-idiot’ type failure.
This type of failure potentially exposes advisers in front of team members, peers or clients.
Our pride hates this. Pride will quickly defend our years of experience, paradigms, opinions and habits. No-one likes to appear incompetent, particularly if you have taken the hard-fought road to today’s perceived reputation.
Unfortunately, incompetency is growth’s close cousin.
Another type of common failure is the ‘you-might-look-like-a-fraud’ type failure.
Every adviser carries this failure somewhere close.
It is what makes advisers perform. It is also what makes them very busy. Not the successful-type busy, the too-busy-type busy.
Advisers research, they study, they double-check, they cross-reference, they get second opinions, they over-deliver, they under-promise because they want their advice to help their clients. They hate being considered a fraud more than they hate appearing incompetent.
Unfortunately, changing expectations is another member of growth’s close family.
For all the work I’ve done with advisory firms this year on their pricing, I can’t think of one job that also didn’t involved re-setting client and team expectations about what could no longer be provided for old fees. Some team members were just too uncomfortable to consider a shift in pricing and proposition that meant they could no longer live up to all their client’s expectations no matter how much those expectations were costing them. They would rather over-deliver and under-price than risk being considered a fraud – someone that now didn’t live up to expectations.
The right plan outlines a specific stretch for a specific team member and firm every quarter. The right plan also outlines the specific support in terms of frameworks, skills and feedback to help undertake the stretch.
But, most importantly, the right plan outlines the motivation for the stretch.
Without the motivation, the status quo’s uneven playing field is just too hard to consistently overcome.
What’s your best plan for 2022?
Your answer lies behind the stretches that you are willing to risk failure for.
Depending upon your size, energy, and pace of growth, you can ‘stretch’ too far, too often. I’d recommend at most four per annum – one per quarter.
These are the best of times to be building and stretching into the future brands of financial advice – do not trust your real potential to a ‘status quo’ plan.
What do you reckon?
Photo from Angus and Robertson
ABOUT JIM STACKPOOL
For over 30 years, Jim has influenced, coached, and consulted advisory firms across Australia. His firm, Certainty Advice Group coaches, trains and is building a growing group of advisory firms delivering comprehensive, unconflicted advice, priced purely on value. The community of advisory firms aligns with Australia’s highest and only ACCC/IP Australia Certification Mark standard of comprehensive, unconflicted advice – Certainty Advice. He has authored four books regarding financial advice with his latest – What Price Value – available now in pre-release for launch in March 2022.