Independent advisory firm owners must wear many hats to grow a successful business: leader, boss, CEO, manager, mentor, teacher, coach, and usually financial advisor, just to name a few.
Consequently — and understandably — most owners tend to focus their time and efforts on areas that they are most comfortable with and, in their view, that are most in need of immediate attention. This approach works out fairly well, as long as they also keep on top of what’s going on in other aspects of their business and stay abreast of changes in the financial industry, especially those that might require some shifts in their business plans.
To do that, owner advisors must keep growing and improving their skills and the skills of the people they manage. Here are eight areas that enable stronger results at any level — including owners and advisors — and that can have a significant, positive impact on an independent advisory business.
1. Business Focus. To maximize their contributions to the success of the business, everyone in the firm needs to know the purpose and direction of the company and to understand how their jobs, tasks and assignments contribute to the overall success of the firm. This includes wisely spending money and prudently using other resources.
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2. Client Focus. Everyone in the firm has to contribute to the creation of a positive client experiences by ensuring that their work is of the highest quality, meeting client expectations of “on-time” delivery, adapting their work processes to meet clients’ changing demands and better serving clients by finding creative solutions while using the firm’s resources efficiently.
3. Results Orientation. This means employees consistently get their jobs done, deliver outstanding results, anticipate and overcome obstacles before they become a crisis, and take personal ownership for results, which includes taking timely corrective action for unsatisfactory performance.
4. Leadership. Successful firms tend to have good leaders at the top and throughout the business. But training the next generation is important, too. Good leaders accept responsibility for problems rather than blame others, maintain a high standard of personal conduct even when pressured to compromise, and manage stressful situations well without becoming uptight, tense or too reactive.
Leaders motivate team members to cooperate and help each other. A good team leader leads by example and will improve results and increase moral in any part of a business.
In addition, good leaders accept constructive criticism with appreciation rather than feeling personally attacked. They provide candid feedback without offending or patronizing others, address conflict and/or disagreement without insulting or offending others, and ask for diverse views before making important decisions. They allow others to disagree, share their best thinking and pay full, undivided attention to what others are saying without interrupting them.
5. Initiative. Good business leaders both allow and encourage their employees to take initiative. That is to make decisions, come up with solutions and identify opportunities for improvement on their own. Of course, it’s important that employees understand the limits of their authority and when to run an idea by their boss and/or the owner. But it’s equally important for firm owners to carefully listen to their employees’ ideas.
It’s tempting for an owner to believe they have all the answers, but they don’t. Quite often employees will know their jobs a lot better than an owner does. After all, they are on the front lines, doing their jobs day in and day out.
6. Planning and organization. We find that the most productive employees tend to approach their jobs in an organized fashion. They prioritize their work so more important tasks are completed first. They also work toward increasing efficiency, eliminating wasted time and resources.