Lessons from life
I arrived at a nice hotel in Edinburgh on a cold evening in December many years ago. I walked inside to find it five people deep and four people wide at the check-in desk. I joined the queue and waited patiently.
The desk was well staffed, but while I waited I noticed a hotel employee standing off to the left doing nothing. He was observing us all in the queue. I drifted off back to my thoughts.
A few minutes later, that same employee arrived with a tray full of free mulled wine and started handing it out to all of us waiting to check in. I thought to myself, “You weren’t there doing nothing at all, you were trying to find a way to make this less painful”.
I’ve never forgotten the experience.
Notice the difference between a five star hotel and a two star version? It’s all about process. Often the two star hotel is owned and run by Mum and Dad, or a family. They personally serve up breakfast at your table each morning. They cook the dinners at night and keep the rooms neat and tidy too.
In the five star version they have more staff and importantly, systems and processes. Yet in a great five star hotel the experience can feel more customised and personal (when it’s done well).
In a five star hotel, they systemise the 90%, so they can customise the 10%.
In my story above, the employee with the mulled wine can only go that extra mile because everything else is being taken care of by the process.
The same applies to you and your business.
Perfect processes create scalability, build consistency of client experience, and keep costs under control. They also allow you and your fantastic team to work to the top of their skillsets, delivering an amazing client service experience.
This is a vital point for all advisers to understand, regardless of whether they own the business or not.
When you’re an amazing adviser it’s usually because you possess some or all of the following character traits:
- You love unstructured rambling conversations that could go anywhere
- You love the challenge of building trust and engagement quickly with new prospective clients
- You can deal with the quirks and diversity of a broad church of clients
- You love variety in your work
If this is the case then when anyone tries to tell you that more process is required, your immediate reaction might be to disagree and resist; “I’m a creative free spirit, man. Don’t restrict me with processes.”
I understand the feelings, but I’m going to suggest you work through them. You need to focus on what’s required to do a great job, deliver great client outcomes, and have lots of fun at the same time. And that’s great processes.
Just as in the hotel example, you want to systemise the 90% (the paraplanning and administration work), so you can customise the 10% (the conversations you have with your clients).
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Back office people often love process because it provides them with certainty. If you do ‘X’ you get ‘Y’. ‘A’ leads to ‘B’ and then ‘C, and then I can go home at the end of the day knowing I’ve done a good job.
To deliver an amazing client experience you need the free-flowing advisers and the process-driven back office team working in perfect harmony. Neither group of people is superior to the other.
If the advisers can’t develop engagement quickly and secure clients, then there won’t be a lot of jobs in the back office. However, if the ensuing work that is created once a client is secured isn’t dealt with speedily, accurately and efficiently, then we won’t have much of a business and we won’t generate referrals.
The truth is we need each other.
Working to Your Strengths
How do you create great processes? By identifying people’s strengths and having them work to those strengths.
Collaborate with your team when designing processes. Work with them to identify which parts or subsets of their jobs they really love to do. How can you get them doing more of what they love and are good at?
Maybe you can move some parts of their job to others on your team that love to do that particular task. Don’t get too wedded to specific job descriptions once you realise you have a good person on your team. The best firms I work with tweak roles to ensure people are doing as much of what they love and are good at as possible.
You create great processes by mapping out:
- What – task
- Who – job title
- How – tools
- When – timeframes
Recognise the strengths and limitations, as well as likes and dislikes of your existing team, to ensure your processes can be delivered time and time again.
Owners Don’t Get a Free Pass
At all times you must adhere to the processes you’ve created because it supports everyone on the team to do their job to the best of their ability and it leads to consistent, high quality client outcomes. Exceptions create chaos!
I always like to think of my team as my internal customers. I wouldn’t send sub-standard work to a customer and so I don’t pass on sub-standard work to my team.
Being the owner of the business doesn’t get you a free pass on any of these issues. Quite the opposite; you must lead by example and walk your own talk.
You need to politely encourage and remind each other to follow the processes you’ve created. You should also highlight examples where doing so, or not doing so, led to desirable or undesirable outcomes.
Strong repeatable processes are your ticket to move from good to great and to unleash the full skillset of you and your team. If this is an area that could do with some work in your business then I’d encourage you to take another look at it. It’ll pay you back in spades.
Let me know how you go.
This article expands on Number 9 in the 26 Standards of Performance for Financial Planning Greatness document I created and shared recently.
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Marcus Buckingham presents the Business Case for Strengths
Marcus Buckingham believes passionately in the power of people working to their strengths. Check out this short video on why it’s so powerful.