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Practice Management > Building Your Business

Groundhog Day: 5 Ways to Escape a Practice Management Time Loop

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It’s Groundhog Day — Punxsutawney Phil says to expect more winter — which is a reminder of the movie of the same name.

Like the movie “Groundhog Day,” where weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is trapped in a time loop, many small or family-run businesses can repeat the same planning mistakes over and over, according to Jim King, who is an owner and wealth manager at Balasa Dinverno Foltz.

“If you’re [a business] owner and have been doing things the same way year after year, maybe it’s time you made some changes — before the next Groundhog Day rolls around,” according to King.

King leads the commercial insurance professionals practice group at Balasa Dinverno Foltz, a wealth management firm in Chicago with more than $3 billion under management.

In working with insurance professionals, King has found five planning tips to be the most consistent areas for improvement for them — advice that also translates well to wealth management owners or any business owner.

“[O]wners need to slow down and reflect on what their long-term vision is for themselves, their [business], and their family,” King said in an email to ThinkAdvisor.

Here is King’s list of five tasks that can help build value in any business practice:

Get your house in order.

1. Get your house in order.

When helping clients is the main priority of a business, King’s advice is to not fail in addressing your own business needs.

“For instance, do you have noncompete agreements for your top producers? Do you have a shareholder agreement for the owners? Do you have a succession plan? What would happen if one of the owners died or was divorced?” King explains.

Business owners need to systematically review and address all of the risks of running a business.

Focus on what you’re good at.

2. Focus on what you’re good at.

According to King, successful business owners concentrate on what they do well and delegate what they don’t do well.

“Create a dedicated management team with well-defined roles,” King advises. “Put standard operational procedures in place. Then hold people accountable. That will free you up to do what you do best.”

Grow your business.

3. Grow your business.

Family-run businesses in particular often have trouble growing, according to King.

He suggests taking a look at the culture of the business.

“Is there a founder who insists on doing things the same way or making all the decisions?” he explains. “Examine where the income comes from. Does most of it come from just one or two family members? What have you done to attract new producers?”

Don’t get caught in the “founder’s trap,” as King says. He suggests getting the right talent on board so the business can grow.

Have a business plan and an exit strategy.

4. Have a business plan and an exit strategy.

Eventually the business will be sold, transferred to others or acquired through a merger.

“Your job is to make sure it’s worth as much as possible when it’s time to sell,” according to King. “You can’t do that without a plan.”

King’s advice is to do the homework, know the business’ true worth, and then do the work to get the business in “tip-top shape.”

“For example, do you have an effective agency management system? Are you investing in new technology?” King said.

Establish personal goals.

5. Establish personal goals.

King too often has discovered the owners of insurance agencies haven’t had any discussions with their family about personal financial goals. This can be problematic for owners of wealth management firms as well.

“A big one is retirement, which obviously affects the future of the [business],” King explains. “Another is whether anyone in the family is interested in taking over the business. Add in the usual financial challenges of paying for college education, purchasing a home or saving for retirement, and you start to get the picture.”

Personal goals should guide and complement business goals, according to King.

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