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Have you heard the Johnny Cash song “One Piece at a Time?”

Even if you aren’t a huge fan of country music, the Man in Black is someone whose music transcends genres. In the song, Cash tells the story of assembling a sort of Frankenstein automobile put together with parts from all different years.

I mention this because many advisory firms assemble their tech stack in a similar way — by adding one piece at a time instead of building a comprehensive plan of compatible software.

The technology stack they end up with is functional, but not effective and efficient. And too often, adding one more piece of technology is treated as the catalyst necessary for “client service.”

Advisory firm owners need to approach client service within their firm with intention and not treat it as something to be remedied by simply adding another piece of technology.

Providing great client service requires a certain level of adaptability, combined with a positive attitude toward continual reinvention and willingness to try new things — both from within and outside an organization.

And though technology can inject some short-term improvement, it is the client service and the operational process that bring efficiency and stability to a firm. If you want to build the best firm possible, it begins with your people and processes, not with an exterior resource, like technology.

How Does Your Firm Work?

Operational efficiency requires you to put in effort to understand the details of how your firm’s client service operates. To begin, you must know where to start.

Usually, the best starting point is with your client process. Documenting every step of the client process will bring clarity to job functions and increase employee satisfaction by helping them understand what they need to do each day to grow the business.

Also, looking at your current (vs. future) desires in the client process will help you identify gaps. Once you know where these exist, you can work to create a consistent and repeatable process, whether that is for planning, investments, or even how to run client meetings.

Every piece of the client process should be mapped out and accounted for. Think about the process at Starbucks.

Wherever you go across the country, you know what to expect when you walk under that green mermaid sign. Starbucks has a repeatable process that creates familiarity and security. You want that same experience for the clients of your firm.

When your processes are documented, you can more easily identify where to fit in technology to help address the gaps, instead of ending up with a bunch of technology solving only one or two problems within the efficiency of your firm.

A well-defined process helps to avoid this pitfall. Instead, you can take an objective and nuanced approach to choosing technology, so you know you’re filling a need and not simply a want.

While technology typically won’t provide an instant revenue boost, adding high-quality technology can enable your team to better provide the consistent client experience. In turn, your firm growth will increase.

Jarrod Upton, MBA, MS, CFP® is Chief Operations and Senior Consultant at Herbers & Company, an independent management strategy consultancy for financial advisory firms. He can be reached at


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