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Practice Management > Building Your Business

4 Ways to Lead in a Crisis

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While there still are many unknowns tied to the current health and economic storm, advisory firms need to apply some immediate discipline and focus to their practices to weather it.

Here are the four moves you should make, starting now:

1. Acceptance

From many years of management consulting through crisis and leadership training, I’ve learned  this: The faster firm leaders “accept” a crisis, the faster they stabilize in it and capitalize in recovery.

We are a long way from the recovery stage of this crisis. But many firms are still operating as if nothing has happened.

Instead, they’re trying to market their way out of a bad situation, get capital to deal with their spending problems and business mismanagement, grow revenue to recover the losses, and/or are still holding onto financial goals made at the beginning of the year.

Things are different now, and leaders must accept it.

Go back to the drawing board and get comfortable with where you are today. Acceptance is the first step to moving forward.

2. Continuity Planning

Many advisory firms have deployed their business continuity plans and now have employees working from home. But continuity plans don’t deal with the crisis we are in today.

Demands are unique, including how to lead a firm when sick in quarantine, how to deal with evolving investment management philosophies, etc.

Every firm needs to review its continuity plan each and every day. Plus, it must be updated, reorganized and followed throughout the coming weeks, months and year.

And, so you have a voice of reason to listen to in times of stress, you should use lawyers to get objective advice. Now, we have a lot of investment banking firms and management consultants reaching out to help you on continuity, but legal teams are your greatest allies in a regulated industry and during a time of crisis with continuity.

3. Marketing Planning

Now is not the best time to add your marketing efforts, roll out more programs and/or effectively double down in marketing dollars, no matter what anyone says.

In general, client sentiment has been frozen, which is not surprising given that we are in a pandemic of fear.

While we are seeing some movement of prospect-seeking advisors, not a whole lot of assets are in motion. If you must do marketing, the customer narrative should be focused on what you are doing to help out.

Your marketing message needs to express how you are serving others and your community. People remember what you do in hard times. The best marketing bet is serving others.

4. Leadership Training

When we do leadership training, we always begin with this story:

There have been hundreds of business books written comparing leading a business to navigating a ship. If you are well read in history, you will learn that there is one key element that leads one ship across the ocean safely and sinks others. That one key trait is the ability of one person to walk with stability. It only takes one person to stabilize an entire ship — one person.

If you are running around frantic, wondering what to do while throwing out ideas, your entire team will follow your lead. Today, we are in a pandemic that will change the course of history. When the wind shifts, are you going to walk steady or sink the ship?

If you do not know how to walk steady in times of crisis, your best investment today is a crash course in leadership training. And that training begins and ends with “knowing” that doubt and fear cannot change your values. If you can walk steady, you will be okay. I have no doubt about it.