How to change: seven steps to advice business transitions

Business Growth / Strategy / Business Processes / Practice Management / 25 June 2019

David Haintz - How to change: seven steps to advice business transitions
David Haintz - How to change: seven steps to advice business transitions

To gain the very best outcomes for clients, advisers often undertake ‘transitions’. Examples of these would include transitions to a new investment approach, a new platform, a managed account, or even a new pricing model.

Of course, if it’s only one client, or a handful of clients, that’s relatively straight forward. But when you are looking to roll out what you believe to be best practice for all your clients across your whole client base, it becomes a real project.

Combined with what is already BaU (business as usual), the sheer scale and volume of work can be daunting or overwhelming. Where do you start? Do you even get started?

If you are only semi successful in this transition, you will end up with a portion of your clients getting the best possible outcomes, and at the same time a messier, less efficient business yourself. This is the worst possible outcome.

Reflect and think about this from your own perspective for a moment. When it comes to transitions, do you have a track record of GSD (getting stuff done)? Or are you contemplating a transition, and, like a deer in the headlights, have frozen before knowing what the next step is?

Whilst with the best intentions, I see many advice businesses that are not as successful in transitions as they should be or would like to be.

My experience from witnessing both successful and sub-optional transition outcomes reaffirms to me there are seven clear steps to take, to get these transitions right.

It doesn’t really matter what the size of your business is, as the client to adviser ratio will be similar, and the process for a successful outcome for all stakeholders is the same.

1. Vision

Start with a clear vision. Begin with the ‘why’. Why are you contemplating this? The clearer you can be on ‘the why’, the easier everything else will fall into place. And of course, the more client centric ‘the why’, the simpler your clients will understand it (but more about that shortly).

Begin with ‘the why’, and the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ will follow.

2. Objectives 

Set clear objectives of this transition, starting with the client. Why are you doing this, and what is in it for them?

You should have clear objectives for all stakeholders, of course starting with clients. But what about your team? Will the transition make their lives easier? It’s certainly more efficient having one best practice approach, but it also makes for fulfilling work with client-centric outcomes being central to your vision, values, beliefs and operating models.

Efficiency isn’t just about best outcomes for clients and staff. Efficiency is a synonym for profitability.

And, if your team get the wobbles down the track in the middle of the transition, refer back to your vision, your why, and your client (and other stakeholder) outcomes.

3. Planning

So your vision and objectives are clear. Now it’s time to get planning. A scalable transition won’t just happen. The better your planning, the better the outcomes will be. A few critical matters matter to consider in your planning are listed below.

4. Project champion 

All projects need a project champion. Ideally with the requisite skills, leadership, and experience to run a project of this size. It may be someone in-house (ideally), but it may be an external resource.

Inevitably the project will get broken down into bite size chunks, and everyone involved will have some accountability. However the project champion is responsible for planning, overseeing, and delivery of the project. Needless to say, this is an important role.

5. Project scope

Before you start, it’s worth considering the depth, breadth and scope of the project. It’s also worth looking at client communications, compliance and the legal side aspects. SoAs, RoAs, client meetings and paperwork can be a huge task, particularly at scale.

For efficiency, and to potentially ease client and staff change fatigue, it is often easier to make more systemic change in one motion. Therefore, consider the ramifications to your clients, staff, and business when scoping and planning.

For example, rather than just changing an investment approach, then going back 12 months later to change platforms and another 12 months later to change your pricing model, it’s worth considering if you can do all this in one go.

It may take more effort initially, but will pay dividends and be more efficient in the long run. One-touch football is always more efficient than fumbling.

6. Understand – Believe – Articulate 

There is a reason this point is at number six. Put the other points first, and this should logically flow.

I see many businesses that try to articulate an outcome, before they believe it. Or try to believe something, before they understand it.

I see some businesses learn scripts to articulate, when they don’t actually believe something is in the best interests for clients. Clients see through all of this.

Of course leaders and project management may understand and believe, but it’s important all team members are understand why you are doing what you are doing and why it’s in the best interests of clients; all the associated inner workings leads to belief, which leads to articulation. The understanding and believe are the keys; the articulation will come from the heart, not the mouth, and clients will pick up on that. Perfect words without belief won’t work.

7. Run as a project

It sounds obvious, but many do not succeed because they don’t approach change systemically. It won’t just happen. Some of the aspects to the project include Gant charts for timeline, and groupings of clients to be approach at different stages (e.g. low hanging fruit first, and more complex cases should be separated). There needs to be a clear start, a middle and an end, with milestones.

Measurement is done on a single source of truth, that all members have visibility of, overseen by the project champion, with team and individual objectives and measurement. The single source of truth should have very clear visuals on progress against expectation.

Weekly meetings to discuss progress, clients wins, roadblocks and learnings can be a great way to galvanise the team and keep everyone accountable.

Once this is all in place it comes down to my favourite Latin phrase – “Fact non-verba”, or deeds not words.

The planning is done. The process is mapped out and we just need to get on with it. Put procrastination aside, and rip that band aid off.

I have witnessed firsthand a team of 10 transition $200m over a six-month period to a new more client-centric investment approach, with a new platform and a new pricing model. Another team of 120 advisers transitioned just under $1b to a new investment approach, on a new platform, over a 10 week period.

If you step through the seven-step process, any issues are almost always in your (the adviser’s) head, not the clients.  If you have the understanding and belief that you are doing something better for your clients, then get on with it.

This may all sound straight forward, but it is not easy.

Follow the seven-step transition process, and you’ll have great outcomes for all stakeholders, not the least being the client.

Interested in this topic and want to know more?

Get in touch to have a chat with David


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