I recently wrote about the importance of sharing best practice and the events we run to help advisers generate ideas. Although there is some structured CPD available, the majority of the agenda is driven by the attendees themselves.
At the start of every meeting, each attendee gets the opportunity to highlight some of the challenges they are facing and suggest any specific items they would like the group to discuss throughout the day.
All these items are written up on a flip chart, which produces the agenda for the open forum discussions. This exercise raises a wide and varying range of topics.
Topics that are regularly raised for discussion include time management, creating business efficiencies, using technology, enhancing the client experience and charging structures.
As with many subjects like these within our profession, there are many different views and options rather than a clear right or wrong approach.
One method may work for some but not for others, which is why we see such a varying spread of business practices. The idea of these meetings is to discuss these different approaches and for each attendee to determine what would best suit them and their business.
Due to the subjective nature of the topics covered, it has always been useful to determine best practice by asking what good looks like. During our recent round of meetings, we used a well-established management technique known as a balanced scorecard to help categorise the activities highlighted for discussion.
The balanced scorecard is a tool used for looking at business practices and strategies, and aligning these to the vision, goals and objectives of that business.
Although there are different theories on how it is best used, it usually consists of four main areas: financial, customer, process and people. Focus can be given on improving each area to meet the ideal vision, which, in our case, is what good looks like.
There can be overlap within the four categories, with some business activities fitting into more than one area. However, there were no topics suggested by our attendees that did not fit into at least one of the categories.
We therefore started discussions with the financials and asked what good looks like in relation to advice businesses. We then moved on to customer, then process and then people. The table shows some of the output from what was discussed.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list and discussions provided the attendees with many things to consider. However, the greatest challenge of having ideas is working out how to implement them.
My advice to those considering amendments to practices in their business is not to try and implement objectives and actions all at once, but to prioritise them and execute them in a way that is realistic and achievable.
Trying to introduce too many actions and changes can be over-ambitious, can often be more confusing for both the team and your clients and, in the worst- case scenario, can lead to nothing changing at all.
While there is clearly great benefit to discussing different issues in a group forum, it is, of course, not always possible. For any adviser considering ways to develop their processes, I would strongly recommend the four-category approach.
Tom Hegarty is managing director at the New Model Business Academy