Every month, our firm holds a board meeting. It runs to a set agenda and is followed up by a summary published on our intranet site. We examine the performance of the firm based on a set of “dashboard” numbers, consisting of 34 headings broken down into five distinct groupings.
We look, of course, at revenue and expenditure, both the headline numbers and the detail, with which we can monitor our progress towards annual targets. We look at new enquiries received and engagement letters issued and returned: another useful device to measure our progress.
The dashboard also considers such things as the number of website visits we have received and the number of podcast downloads from IC Radio (over 100,000 now, so pretty good so far). We look at the numbers around our PR activity and of new client financial plans.
We also talk about the overall shape of the firm, discussing how individuals are performing and feeling about the work they do. We talk about all the important decisions we have to make as a firm and try to make those at the meeting rather than during normal work time. After all, each board member has a day job to do as well.
There are five members of our board: two are family members (my wife and son) and, while the other two are not related to me, I think of them as being like daughters.
This year, I have started to ask the same question at the end of each meeting: “What would you do if I wasn’t here next week?”
Most of the time my question is fobbed off with light-hearted responses but my constant posing of it does seem to be getting my fellow board members thinking.
Last month, our financial planning director said: “Yes, what would we do next week if Nick was dead!?”
To be fair, I was not thinking about death. What I had in mind when asking the question was what were to happen if I was to take more time off; enter semi-retirement perhaps?
I love what I do but I really would like to do less of it. The good news is that I have a multi-generational team around me, with people who are very close to stepping up to the mark to replace me.
They are skilled and have the tone and culture of the firm embedded in them. Our clients have met many of them, both in work and social environments. If I am not here, I know the experience the client is going to receive is going to be just as good.
As a business and as individual business owners, it makes sense to have a succession plan in place. There is real comfort in knowing our clients will be well served in the future – for whatever reason that might be.
Nick Bamford is executive director at Informed Choice