No one ever goes to work aiming or expecting to do a poor job. While everyone has different beliefs, motivations, communication styles, skills and experiences, I firmly believe most people want to do their job well.
There is a lot of research to support the notion that people need more than just money and other financial benefits to be motivated and enjoy their job. Having a strong sense of purpose and deriving pride and satisfaction from their work have been shown as extremely important factors to high-performing staff.
A company’s culture, in terms of what it stands for, the standards it sets, the things it will not tolerate and how it treats its customers and staff, sets the tone and context from which staff take their cues.
One of the easiest ways to create a great culture and a great business is to genuinely put the client at the heart of everything your firm does.
Processes, pricing, staff training, communications, advice models, technical knowledge, technology, marketing and compliance are all the operational components that enable a firm to deliver on its promises, but it is a laser like focus on key outcomes that give a business its raison d’être.
If a business focuses on key outcomes, it is more likely to be delivering things which clients value. Interactions are likely to be more enjoyable and work will get done to a high standard, on time, every time. The firm is also likely to be very efficient, and very responsive to client preferences.
Sadly, I see far too many advice firms which are not operating with an outcomes based focus.
Instead they are inward looking, seeking to defend outdated practices, doing what makes their, rather than their clients’, lives easier.
They do not anticipate or consider how technology can make their clients’ lives easier or the firm’s fees lower.
They do not think properly about how to minimise potential conflicts of interests.
They do not think about how they can get the client more involved in the financial planning process.
They let compliance rules dominate their business and operations thinking rather than taking them into account as just one of several factors to consider.
Most firms do some things very well but my experience is very few firms do everything very well.
If you want to be a progressive firm you need to go way beyond creating a mission statement and service standards. Instead I believe you need to look at your service critically in terms of the following five key outcomes:
- The tangible value that you deliver in terms of financial outcomes and how you make clients feel
- The quality of the client experience in the form of all their interactions with your firm and its staff
- The sustainability and resilience of your business in the sense that you are profitable and will still be in business in the long-term
- The ability to attract and retain high quality staff who, even with the best technology, are essential to great service
- The impact your firm has on society in terms of employment, financially stable clients, capital provision for the economy through investment portfolios and contributing to the tax base
I really believe there are no bad advisers, just bad (or not as good as they could be) advice firms. It’s no secret that great people work for great firms.
Jason Butler is a financial services entrepreneur and former financial adviser. Follow him on Twitter @jbthewealthman