What does it take to build a successful practice? A panel of advisors whose expertise ranged from estate and business planning to investment compliance and employee benefits sought to address that question at the Financial Service Forum 2007 held here late last month. A recurring theme during the session was the need to establish well-defined procedures for managing all facets of the business.
“No matter what you do, everything should have a process and be documented,” said Mark Hanna, president and founder of Hanna Global Solutions, Walnut Creek, Calif., a provider of human resource management, employee benefits consulting and wealth management services. “Even if you operate a traditional employee benefits firm for small businesses, by shifting from a product orientation to one focused on process and outcome-based results, you can bullet-proof your practice.”
Added Brian Hamburger, a founder and managing director of Englewood, N.J.-based Market Counsel: “Key to our success early on was the creation of a business process, including the development of workflows and checklists. Though we only had a few staffers at the start, we acted as if we were running a major conglomerate. So when it came time to hire people, we already had procedures in place for them to follow.”
Much of his firm’s growth, said Hanna, has been fueled by the addition of services that are not core competencies of the company’s clients. Among these are technology solutions and people with expertise in managing payroll, vendor relationships, compliance and immigration functions, as well as “on-boarding” services tailored to clients’ recruitment, training and documentation needs for new hires.
While adding to its outsourced services, Hanna Global has itself outsourced functions that could be more cost-effectively handled by a third-party. Hanna noted, for example, that the firm’s payroll software was developed by an outside vendor, yet the firm private-labels its payroll services.
“We realized early on that not everything should be done internally,” said Hanna. “If you need domain expertise in a certain area, as we did with payroll, then you can enter a strategic partnership with someone who has that expertise. And you can brand the service as your own via a licensing agreement. We definitely recommend this because the client is buying you and the solutions you deliver.”
Anthony Domino, president of Associated Benefit Consultants, White Plains, N.Y., and immediate past president of the Society of Financial Service Professionals, said strategic partnerships have also been key to his business success, but for reasons other than cost efficiencies. A provider of insurance and financial planning that specializes in qualified plans and other employee benefits, the company derives about a third of its business through referrals from an allied accounting firm. Additional qualified leads come by way of partnering with law firms. These other professional practices also deliver complementary expertise in business engagements.