headshot of advisor consultant Angie Herbers

As COVID-19 has changed the way businesses operate, I’ve seen an interesting trend develop at advisory firms so far this year. Advisor owners are bursting at the seams with ideas for what they want to change and how they want to work in the future.

Those ideas are getting written down, and in many cases they’re quite good and truly innovative. Advisors are coming up with new ways to connect with clients in virtual environments, focusing more on succession planning and putting more thought toward partnership tracks for their most motivated employees.

But an idea written down on a piece of paper is simply something you know. On its own, it’s non-operational. Until you put it into practice and see how well it actually works, it doesn’t do your firm any good. 

Those ideas have to transition from the “knowing” stage to the “doing” stage and become operational. To help you get there, I suggest these measures to get past the idea stage and start executing on the good ideas you’ve developed during the pandemic.

Don’t Do This

Because so many advisors are planners, they tend to stick with what they know best — planning. 

Usually that means writing down a goal and setting up a plan for how to implement that goal, what steps are necessary to achieve it, and identifying where their firm is now and where they want to be in the future.

The harsh reality, though, is that in most cases you can’t plan out a service-based idea simply by sitting down and strategically developing it. We are not selling a product here, say a t-shirt, that has to be created prior to selling.

In a professional services business, spending too much time on planning can end up getting in the way of action and being nothing more than a waste of time. 

Do Take These 4 Steps 

The foundation of a great service-based business is service to clients. If you want to serve your clients better, you can’t plan your way there. The only way to truly understand the effectiveness of your ideas is to start doing them and collect data on their success. 

Get out of the planning stage and into the doing stage with these four steps:

1. Narrow down your ideas

The reality is that you have a lot of ideas. However, you need to narrow that list down to one idea that you want to get operational.

Also, you don’t have to plan out the entire process right now and have a roadmap built out for six months into the future. 

2. Ask clients for input

If the purpose of a service-based business is to serve, then it makes sense to ask your clients how they want to be served.

Look at what clients are asking for, and then go to your top clients to get their opinion. If they agree that your top idea is also important to them, you’re on the right track.

3. Start moving

Once you have your one idea, stop planning and put it into action. The goal is to become operational, not to create a perfect process before you ever implement it.

As Winston Churchill said, “Perfection is the enemy of progress.”

4. Tweak and Improve

The most important part of implementing your ideas is to make small enhancements and build them over time.

They won’t be perfect when you start, but six months later they’ll be in better shape than if you had kept planning and never put them into daily practice.

A service-based business doesn’t require planning. It requires action and seeing how clients respond to the service you are creating.

Too often, advisors think they need a long runway to get changes implemented or they’re stuck in the “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mentality.

They don’t want to make changes because the services they have are “working” just fine. 

Great service comes from embracing your humanity. I firmly believe all advisors can improve their client service in just two weeks if they set the planning aside and put their ideas into practice. 

You can make your firm better. What are you waiting for? It’s time to take action.

— Check out 5 Tasks Advisors Must Balance for Growth on ThinkAdvisor.