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Soft focus

For Christmas, the family kept me quiet with two autobiographies – one by Jools Holland and one by Eric Clapton. The latter made me recognise that Eric was totally committed to his craft despite his volatile state of health in his most formative period.

This ability to remain focused sums up the key skill we need. Without it, there is the danger that the various transitions will be put at jeopardy.

With this in mind, we must recognise the two key building blocks in our profession, the first being the importance of the next generation of professional planners and the second being the need to develop our soft skills to a new level, where the value of advice does not need to be promoted as it is more readily recognised by the public, the Government and regulators alike.

A few years ago, I attended a George Kinder session in New Orleans. Never before had I experienced such a profound experience in the development of my skills. I recall how much better I found my soft skills when fact-finding and I was more relaxed in asking the difficult questions that clients either do not recognise or choose to ignore. Now that is not to suggest that I am normally wild and agitated, well, only if Partick Thistle are making rapid progress but I digress.

I would assert that the reflection prompted by these sessions had had a significant effect and their messages remain with me even now. There will be opportunity to attend one of George’s sessions this year. Don’t let it go past you. I am not suggesting that you copy his method of delivery but using his messages as a source and core of all fact-finding does produce excellent results. That takes me to my next point and many may say the most important issue facing all of us. The next generation of planners are very important and we all need to take part in the training of new recruits and not leave it to someone else. Personally, we take training very seriously and my team work hard and learn on and off the job through study and discovery.

If one should then leave us, I have no regrets as we have benefited through their time with us and so have they and feel that our investment has not been wasted. Some firms would ignore the real positives that flow from having people who are eager to learn as part of your team.

This change of view would assist in developing the very people we all need with skills that add value and the final element for this positive change is working as a team.

I have long said that our supposed greatest asset as small firms of one-to-one relationships is our greatest weakness and moving to a team structure really does deliver value.

We need to survive in a difficult world and the optimum use of IT forms a great part of that survival plan.

In the other book, Jools Holland proved why he too has survived. His apprenticeship was so comprehensive that his lack of an instrument seemed to be only a minor inconvenience.

Is that not what we need to strive towards? Where entrants into our craft have to serve their time and build their soft and technical skills. Once we get the level of knowledge to the right point, it is soft skills where improvement is needed. If we do not improve them, then, to borrow from Jools and his pals in Squeeze, we will be truly Up The Junction.

Robert Reid is managing director of Syndaxi Financial Services

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