The Consultant's Toolbox
Through process and technology, you can leverage your time so it is possible to address and manage a broad range of investment and administrative values for a large number of clients. Your training with the Center for Fiduciary Studies, the Investment Management Consultants Association, Association for Investment Management and Research and the Certified Financial Planners Standards Board provide you with the knowledge to be outstanding. But how do you put all this together as a business? How a consultant addresses practice management issues greatly influences their success in engaging their professional on investment and administrative counsel for an on-going advisory fee.
Practice management determines your marketing focus, your value proposition, the division of labor within the practice, the technology used, the skill set required for each supporting function, the most promising market segments for future growth, sales and marketing strategy and client support strategy. Ultimately, practice management determines whether the consultant is creating liquid, transferable value within their consulting enterprise. There are many practice management issues which must be addressed, but two major issues are essential to your success: establishing your value proposition and building a high performance business team. These two issues are mission critical to a successful consulting practice.
Establishing and Differentiating Your Value Proposition
There is no question the financial services industry is fast evolving from commission brokerage to fee-based advice. Clients simply prefer value to be added than not. How things have been done in the past makes no difference. The ultimate question is: Can you create such demanding clients for the broad range of investment and administrative values you address and manage that it will be almost impossible for your competitors to make an inroad? You not only have to know your value before you can sell your value, but you must be able to so clearly differentiate your services that your clients get goosebumps when you articulate your value proposition. This means you must deeply resonate with the investor's own values, beliefs and experiences which transcends selling. You must answer for the investor: (1) who you are, (2) what you do, (3) why you want to do what you do, (4) how do you do what you do, (5) who have you done it for, (6) what makes you different and (7) why they should do business with you. In answering these seven questions in sequence, you will not only discover your unique value proposition and differentiate yourself from your competitors, but you will end up with a passionate, beautifully polished presentation, which, without equivocation, establishes you as a world-class competitor for any client in any situation. No one does this better than Leo Pusateri of Pusateri Consulting and Training, who has been engaged by the industry's top financial services firms and practitioners (See What Is Your Value Proposition?, Senior Consultant, January 2000.)
Building A High Performance Business Team
The challenge is that we almost invariably deal with symptoms and not the causes of the problem. We have too many clients, the wrong types of clients, understaffing, the wrong personality for a support function, the wrong skill set for the function, the lack of structure, the lack of systems, the lack of communication, the lack of management, the lack of leadership, etc. Building a high performance business team cannot be done overnight because it entails group dynamics and changing the way things are done. Steve Saenz of Paragon Resources helps million-dollar practices with three or more staff members to build high performance business teams. Saenz begins a complete business assessment by assessing goals and objectives, revenue and expense analysis, compensation study and an analysis of accounts. This "big picture" evaluation of key practice management issues by the principal(s) of the practice sets the stage for the entire team to be actively involved in the complete business assessment. The complete business assessment entails a business system survey, team survey of practice marketing, team investment process assessment, team assessment of client services, team workload and staff analysis, assessment of strengths and weaknesses of the practice and the team, establishment of roles and responsibilities of each team member, 360-degree evaluation of colleagues, behavioral style analysis, personal interests and aptitudes, personal listening profile, personal learning profile, innovation with care profile, dimensions of leadership profile and coping with stress profile. This is the most comprehensive diagnostic evaluation of a consulting practice ever created and results in response that evaluates business effectiveness in client service, investment process, marketing strategies, sales process and team building. It takes as little as 2-4 weeks. The focus then shifts to creating an action plan which will realize financial objectives without sacrificing quality of life. This is called building a world-class business team. Every successful consulting practice that desires to be outstanding should engage Paragon Resources to conduct a complete business assessment to provide the necessary structure that aligns people, systems, technology and image that separates you from the pack and constitutes a world-class business team. (See Building A World-Class Business, Senior Consultant, March 1999. For a faster download, click here.)