This week we celebrate the first anniversary of our business life in the new location of Preston Victoria. As we approached this milestone, Kellie and I were reflecting on how different our business looks and feels under the Kuda Wealth umbrella, with the streamlined business model operating out of the old Panch (Preston & Northcote Community Hospital) facilities in Hotham Street.
What has become clear to both of us is the power of simply taking the time to stand back from what we are doing, assessing how we are doing it, and asking ourselves why we are doing it. As an old planning colleague of mine once said, “in both life and business, barriers for growth occur because people are so busy chopping the wood that they forget to sharpen the axe”.
Nothing could provide more evidence in support of those comments from my dear old friend Tony from Ballarat than the last 12 months of our business experience.
We migrated from a fully integrated business model across two separate physical locations, comprising multiple advisers, business owners and support staff. This transition presented very real, genuine risks and required strategic thought and careful planning; the reduction in our economies of scale ran the risk of driving up our on-costs, the removal of alternative planners within the business, placed increased concern around succession planning and covering leave, and the reduction in administration support could have given rise to processing delays, expediency in client support and increased pressure on existing staff.
However, at the turn of our business pivoting from the safe confines of a multi-layered, multi-adviser and multi-ownership structure into a quick, nimble and simpler advisory model we took the time to step back and ask ourselves the hard questions about our business, our clients and our advisory processes.
We peeled the lid back on what were our “must-haves”, our “nice-to-haves” and our unfortunate “ego-driven-nugatory-haves”. This exercise allowed us to measure our clients’ true expectations of us and what aspects of our service and processes added value to their lives as opposed to contributing only to our own sense of self-importance and illusions of grandeur.
As a small business becoming smaller in stature but bigger in value, we realised that there were many facets of our business that were completely unnecessary. We were running task management systems which would drain our productivity as it was often observed that we spent more time updating tasks in the system than doing the task itself. We were producing reports on aspects of our business model that no one was reviewing, wasting valuable resources. We were holding meetings for meeting’s sake and dedicating significant amounts time and money toward social media marketing, providing commentary on current social events and posting platitudes to Instagram and Facebook (complete with cliché’ sunset imagery) under the misguided view that our clients cared about this.
Our business had grown from the humble beginnings of Ward Financial Group to operating from two separate locations, attempting to project an image of scale and size. Ignore the fact that we were under-utilising both offices, burning valuable dollars on unnecessary real estate and creating the additional logistics challenges associated with a core and satellite model.
At the time, we were under the impression that this is what clients were expecting from a highly---corporate, professional financial planning firm. However, after seeking feedback from clients directly, it soon became apparent that this couldn’t be further from the truth and therefore, we stripped back all processes and business operational decisions to focus on keeping our business model simple; a mantra that we support in terms of advice, financial management and goal setting.
Our clients do not want fizz, bubble and jazz hands from us. They want sound financial management, quality portfolio construction, and their financial planners to understand their values, as opposed to having the latest trendy corporate values preached at them. Our clients are not looking for the fancy Collins Street office or the high-gloss brochure wear. They simply want to know that we understand their goals and objectives and that we are doing the important job of looking after their money.
The last 12 months have demonstrated to us that through the removal of unnecessary waste, administrative overkill and non-productive processes, we can not only run a leaner business model, but feel less stressed and happier in the process.
The moral of the story is this. We already have a world of over-complication in our lives and while there is nothing wrong with jazz hands and distractions in life, this is not the role of a financial planner. We know that our clients prefer us to stick with managing money and we’re happy to leave the fancy stuff to the cool kids.