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In November of 2015, I reached my 10th anniversary as the owner and founder of The Strategic Implementer, a consulting and coaching firm working with financial advisors and investment managers. As I look back, I realize there are some themes, or “truths” if you will that are “absolutes” to having a successful practice, happy staff and the quality of life you want. Over the course of the next six months or so, I will expound on each of these topics:
1. The right human capital is the #1 key to your success2. ALL firms need a strategic plan just as your clients need a financial plan3. You must work ON your firm or you just have a job4. You must “build your franchise”5. You must have staff meetings every week – open communication in your firm is key6. You must empower individuals to do their jobs7. Having deep, meaningful relationships with your clients will keep them clients forever8. When it comes to marketing, clients will NOT come flying in the windows9. Spend money on technology and then spend money on an expert to help you integrate it - TAKE THE TRAINING - this is not "plug and play" software10. Don’t wait until you are ready to retire to start thinking about succession
Truth #1: The RIGHT human capital is the #1 key to your success
I begin with human capital because it truly is the lifeblood of every firm. It is the number one key to your firm’s success or failure though many advisors want to skimp in this area. For example, I cannot remember how many times I have heard advisors not wanting to pay their Director of First Impressions a good wage because they are “just a receptionist.” This person is responsible for being the first experience with every person who comes in contact with your firm. Is this really where you want to save money? You need to recognize the importance of every position in your firm and pay accordingly. Pay just a little above what the market will bear so they aren’t stolen or get tempted to leave for money.
Maximizing your investment in human capital is all about getting the right people on the ship and making sure that the people are in the right seats. You don’t want to have a navigator who should really be swabbing the deck, and vice versa. Whenever we begin working with a new firm, we always assess everyone in the firm to find out what each person’s strengths are and in what seat they should be sitting. This is true for any new employee that we help our clients hire as well. This takes time and sometimes results in having to turn down otherwise good candidates because they are not suited for the position your firm needs at that time.. I whole-heartedly believe in the maxim “slow to hire, quick to fire.” If one of your employees is not suited to sail the high seas, they have to get off the ship immediately.
I advise every one of my clients to put compensation incentive plans in place for their employees because most people like to know that if the firm is doing well, they will be rewarded for their contribution. On the flip side of this, if the firm is not doing well or the employee is not contributing enough, it will affect their bottom line. This gives them skin in the game. This also means that employees must be given regular performance reviews. Your people need feedback from you or they will not know if they are meeting or exceeding your expectations. They are not mind readers. Also, I have never heard of an employee who didn’t want to receive positive feedback on the things that they are doing exceptionally well.
Finally, you have to remember that we are in a service industry and you should direct as much of your employee efforts and time to the “client WOW experience” as possible. If there are tasks that do not have any effect on the clients’ experience, outsource them. This can include client paperwork, compliance, mailings, etc. etc. You want to give your clients the best experience you can, and those tasks need to be handled with ultimate care. However, there are outsource people that can do pretty much every aspect of your business. If the great people that you have hired and cultivated over time are spending large amounts of time on things that have no effect on the clients’ WOW experience, I see that time as poorly spent. Your team should be spending most of their time providing stellar service to your clients. Period.
The success or failure of a firm is directly linked to the firm’s human capital. It is your job to make sure that ship sails smoothly and efficiently.
As the year progresses, I will be going over the topics I mentioned earlier, and I hope you will continue in my series of Ten Years, Ten Truths.
Ginny Hudgens, President and Owner of The Strategic Implementer, started out in the financial services industry in 1992 as a Vice President in the Investment Banking Group of J.C. Bradford & Co., a regional brokerage firm purchased by PaineWebber (now UBS) in 2000.
In August of 2000, she accepted a position with a financial advisor, his only employee at the time, as the "jack of all trades". At the time of her employment, the firm had approximately $7 million in assets under management. Later, as the COO of the firm, she and the advisor built the firm to over $115 million in assets under management. Ginny was responsible for managing all aspects of the firm, leading team strategy sessions and implementing the initiatives that drove the firm growth.
In March of 2006, she started The Strategic Implementer to share her skills with other advisors who are READY to take their business to the next level. Her background has put her in the unique position of knowing exactly what it takes to build a successful advisory firm.
Ginny has written for and been written about in such publications as The Journal of Financial Planning, Investment News and Bob Veres’ Inside Information. She is frequently asked to speak and has spoken to groups including several FPA chapters, Geneos Wealth Advisors in Denver and the 2013 FPA Business Solutions Conference.
Ginny is a 1988 graduate of the University of Louisville with a B.S. in Business Administration (concentration in Finance). She is married and her husband has two grown sons, one who served his country in Iraq for 15 months and his younger brother, who is now her associate in The Strategic Implementer. Ginny serves on the Board of Directors for the Louisiana State University CFP Program.