Document Your Processes and Finally Build Your Franchise!

FRANCHISE IMAGEIn my most recent writing dated April 10, 2018, I talked about how to get buy-in on writing and using processes.  We all know why this is important…not just from an accountability standpoint but from the view of getting YOUR way of doing business” documented so it’s repeatable.  In other words, Building Your Franchise.

TSI has spent a great deal of time studying the dynamics that go into documenting your franchise.  We understand it is one thing to say you need to document your processes but an entirely different proposition to actually get it done.  We have helped many of our clients get their processes down and what follows are what we have determined to be the easiest and most efficient ways.

So here are our ideas! Let us know what you think.

Write all the steps on post-its – yep, it’s still the most effective way!

The first step in documenting a process is to get everyone that will work on that process in a room to discuss the steps.  Everyone that will be using the process needs to be involved in the creation, even if one person is only involved in a small part.  Then, as a team, begin writing each individual task that needs to be completed on post-it notes and arrange them on a surface (conference table, window, office door) in the order that they need to be completed.  Some tasks can or should be completed simultaneously and you can group those post-its accordingly.   You can also use a program called Stormboard (www.stormboard.com) that lets you use “virtual” post-it notes.

Trim the fat

Once you have all the steps laid out, confirm that your process begins at the beginning and ends at the natural end of the process.  This can be challenging, there may be ambiguities, and the team may debate where to begin and end the process.  For example, sending someone who would like to become a client your contract for services can fall into a “Prospect” process or a “New Client Onboarding” process.  Some firms continue their “Prospect” process until all necessary documents are signed and returned, while others will have this step at the beginning of the “New Client Onboarding” process.  There is no right answer.  For most processes, you should begin at the beginning and end with a follow-up or confirmation. 

One easy way to know where to end a process is to ask yourself, “What does the completed product look like?” or “What is the final result we are looking for?”  Is your “New Client Onboarding” process complete after the first meeting with the client?  After you have delivered the financial plan?  After a three month check-in call?  It will be different for every firm. 

Once you define the beginning and end of the process, trimming and combining tasks that are done simultaneously will lead to greater efficiency.  Instead of having three steps for 1) input client information into Redtail, 2) input client information into eMoney, 3) input client information into XYXY, you can combine these steps into one task of “input client information into Redtail, eMoney, and XYXY.”  You should try to save yourself and your employees from too many unnecessary completion clicks.  More information can be added to the notes or explanation of a step in the process. 

Assess logical relationships between steps

Most CRMs have a way to trigger two steps or tasks in a process simultaneously, and you should be thinking about the logical relationships among the tasks before you put them into your CRM process.  For example, in a quarterly report process, one person could be responsible for writing the cover letter and another person could be responsible for compiling and printing the investment reports.  Both of the tasks need to be completed before moving on the next step of preparing to mail the reports, but either task can be completed first.  Identifying and preparing for these concurrent operational tasks can save you a big headache when running the process.  Ask yourself, “What must be done before we move to the next step?”

Input into your CRM and assign a trigger person

Finally, you will need to input the written process into your CRM.  We have found it is easiest to identify who the power user of your CRM is and have that person put all of the process into the CRM.  When you have multiple people putting processes into your CRM in different ways, the water gets muddy very quickly.  The person who inputs the process into the CRM is often NOT the person who is responsible for starting or triggering the process.  One person should be assigned to start the process and this is usually the person who receives the first piece of information in the process.  If you typically come back from a marketing event with a handful of business cards and give those cards to a specific person in your office, that person should be responsible for starting or triggering the “Prospect” process. 

Once you have a process inputted into your CRM and you have tested that it works the way it was designed, we recommend looking at any outstanding processes in your weekly staff meeting.  This way you will be able to see where the process is being stalled and if it needs to be tweaked in any way.  It is very common to have small tweaks along the way to include information that was previously omitted or to re-assess how the logical relationships of tasks drive the process. 

We have helped many of our clients write processes and input them into their CRMs.  If you would like to talk about how we can help your firm with this challenge, feel free to book a complimentary call on our calendar through this link.

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How to Finally Get Buy-In on Writing and Using Processes

CREATE WORKFLOWS PROCESSESWith CRM technology becoming more and more robust, written processes and workflows that are integrated into your CRM can be an invaluable tool to keep moving things forward and to track what has been done for your clients.  Writing and inputting processes into your CRM can be an onerous task in itself.  Going through your firm’s processes and figuring out how if-then logic trees will integrate with your CRM can drive some people mad.  However, we have found one of the biggest hurdles is to get everyone to use the processes once they are in the CRM. 

Owners are sometimes the worst offenders in failing to use the CRM processes because you know what needs to be done and you know how to do it.  However, there are some tools that we use to ensure that your team continues to use processes you’ve developed.

Invite everyone that will be assigned a task in a process to collaborate when it is written.  One of the best ways to get buy-in is to have everyone that will take part in any process help develop and write it.  People are more likely to continue to use a tool if they participated in its development.  They have already invested a good deal of time into it during the development phase and they want to make that effort meaningful and not forgotten. 

Assign a point-person for each process.

It’s important to have one person who is responsible for kicking off or starting each process.  If a process can be started by anyone, it is more likely that no one will do it.  When there is a point person for a specific process, and it is solely that person’s responsibility to kick it off in your CRM, it is much easier to track.  We also recommend looking at outstanding processes each week in your staff meeting and discussing any times that someone should have started a process, but didn’t.  A mild public shaming can go a long way. 

Start slow and gain steam.

One mistake some firms make is to try to write and integrate too many processes all at one time.  If on a Friday, you have no processes and then on Monday, your team comes in and you expect them to start using twenty processes, it is going to be a difficult transition.  We recommend starting with assigning one process to each employee who will be the point person.  After 3-4 months of using those processes, you can begin to add more.  People need to get in the habit of using them before assigning more. 

Consider the user and don’t over-engineer the processes.

One of the biggest complaints we’ve heard from employees tasked to use processes is that they end up taking more time than just completing the task.  While a slight time deficit is okay when you first start using processes, the fewer steps in a process generally make it easier to use.  When you are developing and writing processes, it is important to capture every step, but when you integrate it into your CRM, it is equally important to eliminate or combine any steps that are superfluous or can happen simultaneously.  The users of the process don’t want to have to go back to the CRM and click to complete actions after every tiny detail is completed.  Generally, the fewer clicks, the better.

We have helped firms write and integrate processes so that everyone buys in and continues to use them.  It creates an environment where it is very easy to track where outstanding tasks are and when to expect them to be completed.  Give us a call if you would like to discuss how we can help your firm. 

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When It's Time to Replace a Legacy Employee

One of the most difficult decisions a business owner has to make at some point is when to terminate a “legacy” employee.  Many of the firms we have encountered have employees that have been with the firm since its infancy and have helped the firm get to where it is today.  For many reasons, some employees can go from being a productive member of the team to barely able to keep up or disengaged.  This can happen quickly, but it is much more common for the transition to happen over a number of months or years.  It frequently happens when the firm goes from being a one or two person office to a much bigger entity.  When this happens, the owner of the firm is faced with the difficult decision of what to do with an employee who is no longer stacking up. 

The first thing that should be done is to have an honest conversation with the employee and provide them with an improvement plan to get back on track.  Many times this will come as a surprise to the person and they will correct their behavior.  Sometimes, we are not so lucky.  When you are faced with an employee who does not meet the improvement metrics set for them, another option is to move them to another position that might be better suited to them.  This may include some short-term pain of retraining the employee, but it is better to have someone you know and trust on your team in a new role in which they can succeed rather than starting from scratch with a new person.  We have worked with several firms that have moved people around within the organization and have found a more natural and productive fit for all their employees.  However, a word of caution - do NOT give in to the temptation of creating a position for them.  This will lead to resentment by the other staff members and ultimately, you, as the business owner as well.  If there is an open position for which they are more qualified, then it makes sense.  If not, then don’t do it. 

If retraining does not result in a positive outcome, or is simply impossible in your firm, you must begin to objectively analyze whether the employee can continue to add value to your team.  After all, an underproductive employee is costing your firm more than just the employee’s salary – it is costing you increased productivity and leverage that your firm could be using to achieve bigger goals by hiring a new staff member.  Underproductive employees will hold a firm back from achieving its potential.   Additionally, in most cases, if the employee can no longer keep up or you are not happy with the productivity of that employee, they know it.  Trust us, they know it.  They are under a tremendous amount of stress from this.

Loyalty to employees that have been with your firm for years is admirable, but if you are unhappy with an employee’s performance over a long period of time, the employee is almost always unhappy in the position as well.  You are not doing them any favors by keeping them in a job where they are underperforming, and most likely unhappy.  In this situation, you are most likely holding the employee back from another opportunity that they will be more successful in. 

When letting any employee go, we recommend providing them with a termination letter, which describes any benefits they will have, and states resources that may be helpful.  We also recommend you provide them with a letter of recommendation and provide a severance – the rule of thumb is one week’s pay for every year of service.  This will soften the blow to you and the employee and ensure that they will find a new job without too much stress. 

When we work with firms that make the tough decision to move on a long-time employee and find a new person, most commonly, there is a sense of relief on the part of the Advisor and eventually on the part of the former staff person.  The awareness of their shortcomings creeps up on you over years and when you replace them with a new A Player, it is often an eye-opening experience when you now have someone in that position to help you get to the next level in your business.  If you are struggling with a legacy or any employee and you are considering replacing them, feel free to set up a call on our website (Click Here to Schedule a Call) to discuss how we might be able to help you transition the current employee and find your next great team member.

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Changes In Employment Laws Make Hiring Even Trickier

Happy New Year!  So, now that the holidays are over, you may be thinking about bringing on new team members to your firm or changing out some not-so-A players.  What I want to talk about today is interviewing…what you can ask and what you cannot ask.  There were some changes to some State laws in 2018 with respect to this very subject.

There are many guides available on the internet and in books that give sample questions to ask in an interview of a potential new employee.  They can vary widely from “What’s your biggest weakness?” to “If I were to ask you to empty the dishwasher right now, would you do it?”  There is usually some armchair psychology going on in deciding which questions to ask and why, but in this post, I am going to focus on questions that may seem innocuous that could potentially get you in some hot water. 

As an attorney, my radar is always attuned to potential legal issues with questions that employers ask in interviews.  Most employers know not to ask an interviewee about their race, ethnicity, age, sex, national origin, religion, disability, marital/familial status, or pregnancy.  These areas are well covered and strictly illegal.  However, asking seemingly innocuous questions in an interview that lead the interviewee to touch on these areas could open the employer up to a lawsuit if the interviewee believes they didn’t get the job because of their answer.  Here are some examples of questions that could lead to legal issues:

  • How long do you plan to work until you retire?
  • Did you grow up around here?
  • When did you graduate high school?
  • Do you have any kids?
  • Do you live by yourself?
  • How many days of work did you miss last year?
  • What is your maiden name?

All of these questions lead the interviewee to provide information that is not legally obtainable by an employer. 

There are new laws that are becoming more and more popular that bar employers from asking about a candidate’s salary history as well.  Several states and many local governments have decided that this question is not appropriate in the interview process because it hinders an employee from negotiation and upward mobility.  California has gone one step further and has banned employers from basing a new employee’s pay on salary history, even if the candidate volunteered the information. 

At the beginning of 2017, we eliminated the question from our hiring process because of the number of cities and states that have passed laws.  We now tell the candidates that the salary range for the position is between $X and $Y, and ask if they are comfortable in that range.

In addition to salary history, several states have prohibited credit checks as a condition of employment.  There are usually exceptions to this rule for professions involving a high level of public trust or individuals that have access to sensitive information.  Nearly all employees at wealth management firms have access to sensitive information, but the laws vary from state to state. 

The hiring process that we use to find our clients only the best employees has been successful time and time again.  After we go through the process and help our clients hire their new employee, the most common feedback is “I didn’t know we could get someone this great.”  If you anticipate you are going to need to add more members to your team in the next three to six months, give us a call today.  You can also schedule a complimentary call with us by going to our website (www.thestrategicimplementer.com).    

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The Talent Shortage is VERY Real

b2ap3_thumbnail_TALENT-NEEDED.jpgAre you looking to add great talent to your team? Well, if you will need someone in the next six months, the time to start your search is NOW!

Finding great talent is becoming more and more difficult because there are fewer great candidates available. The average age of advisors is over 50 and 41% of advisers are 55 or older according to Cerulli research. The average time for a firm to hire an advisor has nearly doubled from 2009 to 2017 according to a study by DHI Hiring. There are also fewer and fewer college graduates that pursue financial planning degrees, as well as fewer opportunities in college – notably the closure of the CFP program at LSU here in Baton Rouge.

In addition to a shortage of talent, many advisors are finding it more difficult to attract younger talent because of the expectations that millennials have of their employers. Millennials are often attracted by businesses that show a clear and direct career path to the position they would like to be in 10 years from hire. This group will also give firm culture more weight in their decision making process than previous generations. A great firm culture will often attract more young talent than a higher pay rate. This means that some firms have to take fundamental look at how their firm works to attract freshly minted advisors.

It’s not just great advisors that are difficult to hire right now. Customer Service Associates and other advisory firm staff are also at a shortage. Firms are wising up on the compensation and pricing their great staff out of the market place. They want to make it very difficult for them to leave. I know this first hand because we go through a benchmarking salary exercise twice a year with our clients to make sure they are at the high end of the third quartile!

The days of financial services employees feeling “lucky” to have a job are gone and the days of firms feeling lucky to have great employees are here. The “selling” process for great talent has reversed itself and the employees are in the driver’s seat. Do you know how to position yourself to attract the best talent? More than ever, it is important to have an intentional and comprehensive process to find your next hire. The TSI hiring process has been refined over many years to find the person you are looking for, and the person who is right for your firm. If you know you are going to need a new addition to your firm in the next six months, we urge you to contact us immediately to discuss who, what, and when you can expect to find that person.

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10 Years, 10 Truths - Number 9 OR Don't Wait Until You Are Ready to Retire to Think About Succession

b2ap3_thumbnail_succession-planning.jpg

If you want your business to have a life after you, plan for succession now and do it by finding a capable successor. Without a groomed and competent successor that your clients know and trust, your clients will go running for the hills when you are ready to call it quits. Your clients probably don’t know that the business could survive without you being there every day – they don’t know that you have great staff and documented processes that could keep the place running. Your clients trust you much more than they trust your business. So if you want your clients to stay with the business after you retire, you have to engender that same trust in your successor.

If you do not want your business to have a life after you leave, or if it is simply too late to begin the succession transition, planning for a sale of the business is the other option. However, one of the main things any buyer will be looking for in a firm that is selling is “Does the business run on its own, without the need of any one person being involved.” If the answer to that question is no because the business cannot run without you – the owner – your business will be devalued and your selling price will likely not be what you are expecting or your firm may not be sellable at all. The last thing most advisors want is to have to walk away from their life’s work with very little to show for it.

There are so many complexities to the manner in which a successor can take over a business, it would be pointless to try to talk about them all in a blog post. However, the one factor that correlates among firms that have successful transitions of ownership is to choose the successor early and begin the transition at least 5 years (10 being better) before the owner is ready to retire. Your clients need to know, trust, and sometimes even prefer your successor if they are going to stay with the business after you retire.

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10 Years, 10 Truths - Number 6 OR You Must Empower Your Employees to do Their Jobs!s

Empowering employees to do their jobs is one of the quickest and most drastic ways you can change your firm. It is also one of the most difficult things for some owners to do because it means ending the cycle of micromanagement.

Micromanagement kills productivity and the morale of your employees. If you feel that you have to micromanage an employee, you either have trust or control issues. Trusting an employee boils down to the belief that the employee can complete their job accurately and efficiently without your intervention. If you do not trust that an employee can do this, you must either learn to trust through effective management-style communication with the employee or you must find another employee.

If the issue is control – whether it is over the business as a whole or over single employees – you must learn to let go or accept the fact that the growth of your firm is going to be significantly impacted. If you cannot avoid micromanaging because you want to be able to control every aspect of the work leaving your office, you would be better suited to getting rid of all of your employees and running a one-person business.

Empowering employees to do their jobs helps the managers free up more time to be productive and increases employee morale by giving the employees more of a sense of responsibility in their work. As employees are trusted to complete their job accurately and efficiently, they feel more responsibility for their own work-product and there is more buy-in from the employee in the operations of the firm. You can double down on this buy-in by including all of your team members in strategy discussions and encouraging them to participate in growing the business in any way they can. Once good employees feel trusted and that their input is valued, they will invariably feel less like a commodity in a business, and more like a valuable member of a team that is all headed in the same direction. This comradery usually lights a fire under people to help them better their work and attitude, but keep in mind this might not extend to a personal friendship. You sign their paycheck so don’t be surprised if they don’t interact with you the way they might with other members of the staff – and don’t take it personally.

Give us a call to see how we can help you achieve Direction, Implementation & Momentum!

 

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The Importance of Having a Hiring Process

We’ve all heard the adage that we need to create the franchise that is our business so that you have repeatable results and repeating success. As with most things in your business, it is important to have a repeatable process for hiring new employees. Without a repeatable process, you leave the hiring of new employees up to chance and risk of 1) not finding the types of candidates you need your firm, and 2) hiring the wrong people. Both are expensive and time-consuming.

How to Find Great Employees
The most important rule to remember when posting job ads is to post to the places where the best candidates are looking. This is easier said than done, but it is not a useless exercise. It is important to cast a broad net if you are looking for administrative staff that –could have experience in a different industry. If you are looking for a more senior employee such as an operations manager or junior financial planner, it is important to keep in mind that these people may be looking for a new position through some of the larger job board websites as well as more specialized sites like their local FPA chapter or the CFP Board site. LinkedIn can also be a very useful tool for hiring/headhunting.

Interview Process
Once you get a candidate that you are interested in, the first step should always be a phone interview. You can learn a lot about a person over a phone call without having to go through the trouble of setting a meeting in person. You can weed out many of the applicants through a 15 to 20 minute phone call. Not only can you get information that is not on the candidate’s resume, you can get a sense for his or her phone etiquette and ability to think on their feet. In our process, if the candidate survives the phone interview, we send them a career history form, which gives us more information about their previous jobs, what they liked about them and why, and what they want to do in their career in the future. Only then is an in-person interview set up.

The questions you should ask both in a phone and in-person interview should be scripted, and you should be asking the same questions to each candidate. This is part of creating a successful hiring process. The questions should be tailored to the position for which you are hiring and should also take into account the culture of the company. This is not to say that every interview should have every word scripted. The interviewer will need to ask relevant follow-up questions to the answers provided by the candidate. This may not come naturally to everyone, and it is not uncommon for an interviewer to later think of several follow up questions he or she should have asked during the interview. It is perfectly acceptable to pose those follow up questions in an email to the candidate, but also be sure to add these follow up questions to your template so you do not miss them again. Two good resources for substantive questions are Paul Falcone’s 96 Great Interview Questions to Ask Before You Hire and Bradford Smart’s Topgrading. Both provide in depth analysis as to what questions to ask, and what you should be looking for in the answers.

Skills Testing
Skills and strengths testing is an important part of the interview process because you can only gain so much information from a person from talking to them. We use Caliper Assessments as part of our interviewing process because it is a good combination of personality, intelligence, and professional testing. It gives us a good idea of how the candidate will interact with other staff members, and the type of work they are suited to excel in. It is important to remember that no test is perfect and should be analyzed based on the totality of information you know about the person and the position you are considering the candidate for. However, if a candidate tests poorly, don’t be hesitant to move to other candidates just because you liked that candidate in his or her interviews.

Often, specific testing is needed for candidates that will have very specific job duties. For example, an administrative support candidate may need to be tested in his or her proficiency in MS Office. A financial planner candidate may need to provide a sample financial plan or can be tested on planning knowledge based on a hypothetical set of facts.

Onboarding Documents
Once you decide to hire someone, you will need to have uniform onboarding documents that lay out the duties the new employee will be responsible for, along with the compensation structure for the position. You want to set the expectations with the new employee for his or her position and for the firm in general.

The current job market favors the employee with low unemployment and a shortage of top talent. If your business will need a new team member in the next 6-9 months and you need help with any part of this process, please contact us now to discuss what we can do for you.

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The Importance of Hiring Good Employees

Many employers wait until they need a new person before they start posting job ads and looking for the new employee. This will often lead to the knee-jerk reaction of “we just need to get a body in here.” Just a body is almost never what businesses need unless they are in the movie business and they are looking for extras. Though employers may need help immediately, it is far more expensive and time consuming to hire the wrong person than it is to wait for the right person. A new employee that is smart, fits with the culture of the firm, and works hard can bring the level of work product and morale up in the office, even if that person is at the bottom of the organizational structure.

Any new hire is going to be a significant investment of time and money. Even if the new employee has worked in the same industry, there is always a learning curve when going to work in a new business. No two businesses operate in exactly the same way and it will take the new employee time to get up speed on how your specific business works. There will be a significant amount of time invested in training the new person, and there will also be time and energy spent by everyone on the team to make the new employee feel welcome in their new environment. To the same point, the investment of money by the firm is not limited to just the salary paid. We also have to consider the cost of the decrease in productivity of current employees who are responsible for training the new person. 

Even when the job description for a new person is acutely tailored, good employees always find a way of branching out and taking on tasks that were never in their job description. This will give leverage to other employees to focus on higher level tasks. Whether you are looking for a Senior Financial Planner or a Director of First Impressions, when a new employee can take on additional tasks, the leverage to work on the business instead of in the business and tackle more strategic goals always flows upstream.

Employment Numbers Are Not on Your Side

According the US Department of Labor, the national unemployment rate was 5.1% in September 2015, the lowest it has been since April 2008, and it has been steadily falling since 2010. (http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/unemployment-rate) Though it has slowed somewhat, earlier in 2015, there were more new jobs created in the US than in any other time since the Department of Labor started tracking this number in 2000. Lots of job openings and very few people looking for jobs mean that good employees are scarce. In an employee’s market, finding and keeping good employees will necessarily be more difficult.

Because there are so many job openings and firms looking, qualified candidates who would fit into different firm cultures are not staying unemployed for long, and they often receive multiple offers quickly after they start interviewing. While some candidates are just looking to get the most amount of money in a new position, creating a bidding war among several potential employers, it is far more common for a candidate to look for a specific salary range, and then look for the firm culture that they feel the strongest connection to. It is truly a scenario where the potential employee is interviewing the members of the firm to see if he or she wants to work with those people every day. Also, because of the changing landscape of mandatory health insurance and increasing education of sound retirement planning, employees are requesting more benefits from employers in addition to the base salary offers. Competitive firms are offering a full gambit of benefits because they know this will attract the best candidates. Make no mistake – good employees not only want to be paid well, they want a benefit package that is just as competitive.

Difficulties in Hiring

Depending on the market, we are finding there are either a large number of unqualified applicants to our job postings, or virtually no applicants at all. In the former scenario, it feels like we are trying to find a needle in a haystack and in the latter, it is like doing a rain dance in the desert. Because of this, it is taking longer to find qualified candidates, and even longer to find qualified candidates who fit well with firm cultures. It makes sense that there would be large numbers of unqualified candidates in larger markets because in today’s landscape, businesses are hanging tightly on to their good employees and only letting go of their worst people.

Planning Ahead

Kneejerk hiring can be detrimental to your firm because of the money and time that is wasted, but also from a morale standpoint. A firm’s culture will quickly deteriorate if the employees see any position in the firm as a revolving door. If employees are not invested in building relationships with coworkers because they suspect some of them may be gone in six months, the firm can never run as a well oiled machine. The only way to combat this is to plan ahead – look at where your firm will be in 12 to 24 months and think about where area of the business will be overloaded if you hit your growth projections. If you see some area of your business reaching capacity in the next 6 to 12 months, you need to start looking for your next hire today.

If you are ready to start looking for your next hire, feel free to schedule a call with us to discuss further.

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