The problem with systems…

Michael Gerber was right.

Systems can improve every aspect of our work lives by providing the necessary frameworks to help busy technicians create solid businesses.

Gerber’s book – “The E-Myth Revisited“- created a new language for small business development. His “Work On It, Not Just In It” mantra hinted at how business founders might gain entry into the entrepreneur’s hall of fame.

I met Gerber in 1999 at a USA FPA conference. After his very animated presentation, I joined a long queue of fellow conference-goers seeking his signature on my copy of his 1995 best-seller.

As he shook my hand and asked my name to sign my book’s inside cover, I asked what his most significant insight was since the book’s release four years earlier.

He said he was still stunned by the overwhelming response he had received.


Systems help advisory firms progress.

Appointment scheduling, client reviews, team remuneration, advice peer reviews, investment committees, work-in-progress control, billing, alliance management, client portals, and marketing could not co-exist without systems that helped ensure the right resource was doing the right job at the right time for the right outcome.

Almost every business function requires a system.

As businesses progress and require a greater capacity to deliver upon the growing number of promises made to clients, team members, and stakeholders, the drive for better systemisation seems as natural as night follows day.

Systems, however, can become part of a bigger problem.


Prioritisation is different to systemisation.

Even a firm’s most proven systems can sabotage progress without the right priorities.

Priorities provide the focus needed to create new solutions and systems for the different cycles of firms and the marketplace they operate within.

Priorities also focus precious energy and capacity away from outdated practices onto needed new approaches.

While Covid-19 and today’s ridiculous compliance revolution have impacted every firm’s systems, these external influences are not the greatest cause of any grief these uncontrollable events have caused.

Any grief experienced is not a product of bad systems.

It is a product of wrong priorities.

Our priorities are similar to our health.

We assume everything is normal until we become so incapacitated that no progress is possible without a significant rehabilitation.

Many of today’s advisory firms fail to realise the consequences of their systems and priorities decisions.

As today’s financial services marketplace is breeding new financial services systems providers like rabbits, the continual quest for better systems to solve enduring operational problems needs to start with a re-examination of priorities rather than yet another search for a better system.

Gerber was right – systems are crucial.

But the bigger priority for advisory firms is not to automatically follow and believe the best path will be achieved via a new system.

In these times of fundamental change, the best path is based upon each firm’s best and unique priorities.

What do you reckon?




Photo credit: JJS_Collection



For over 30 years, Jim has influenced, coached, and consulted advisory firms across Australia. His consulting firm, Certainty Advice Group, coaches, trains and builds advisory firms delivering comprehensive, unconflicted advice with fees priced purely on value. He is growing a strong, collaborative community of advisory firms aligned on Australia’s only Certification Mark advice standard for comprehensive, unconflicted Certainty Advice.  He has authored four books regarding financial advice, with his latest – What Price Value – released last year.

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