Jun 29 2022 / Annual Meeting
Building a collaborative approach
By Kathleen R. Benjamin, CFP, CPA
What is the rhythm of your business? Is it steady and planned, or is it a bunch of chaotic improvised weeks as you scramble to get everything done? When a firm is growing, it can feel very chaotic as you are trying to handle all the responsibilities yourself or with a limited staff.
Why be inspired to create a collaborative approach?
- To position your firm for significant growth (It isn’t a matter of if but when growth is going to happen, and you have to change to be ready to handle it.)
- To understand the benefit in building an ensemble practice in which a team-based service model will provide career paths for young employees and emphasize training, resulting in consistent, repeatable processes
A collaborative team culture in all facets of the company will establish a rhythm between all components of the business:
- First component: Between clients and the firm. This will result in higher client satisfaction and retention due to highly personal support and service. For example, when you establish a block of months to conduct annual strategic meetings and tactical year-end calls, clients understand when, during the year, they will be meeting or talking with their advisory team. When you ensure that two advisors attend each client meeting or call, the clients understand they have a team working for them, which improves retention and allows for client questions to be addressed in a more timely manner by a member of the team, not just the lead advisor.
- Second component: Between staff and management. This will result in more engaged team members, leading to higher tenure. By establishing a specific schedule for annual strategic and tactical year-end meetings, you allow the team to better anticipate its workload and understand the expectations during those months and within the weeks of those months. Establishing committees ensures that everyone has a voice and participates. In addition, having an employee council creates a conduit between the team and executive management for concerns and questions to be heard and addressed on a timely basis.
How to create a collaborative firm
Create teams and define their purpose
- Operations team, whose purpose is to execute repeatable workflows related to investment and client relations to ensure a high level of service to your clients and effectively support the advisory team
- Advisory team, consisting of lead advisors, whose main responsibility is business development and managing client relationships; and associate advisors, whose main responsibility is to prepare all meeting materials and answer the majority of client questions outside of meetings
- Insurance team, whose main responsibility is to formulate and present solutions to the advisory team for risk management in addition to all policy servicing needs
Create a schedule for client meetings
When you intentionally conduct Annual Strategic Meetings (ASMs) very differently from Year-End Tactical Calls (YECs) and during very specific times of the year, clients have a clear understanding of what the objectives and desired outcomes of each type of meeting are. For example, schedule all ASMs during the first six months of the year for two hours per meeting, which have a consistent set of deliverables and are a comprehensive review of all financial and risk-management topics. Calling these “strategic” instead of “review” meetings is important due to connotation — strategic is forward-looking versus a review which is in the past. Since more time is needed to prepare for the comprehensive ASM, advanced planning meetings should be held one month ahead of a client’s scheduled ASM to ensure that all the critical information that will be needed is identified. This will ensure it is on hand when final ASM prep and recommendations are being completed the week before the meeting. These advanced planning meetings, scheduled every two weeks, are attended by the advisory and insurance teams. During these meetings, the lead advisor, who manages the relationship, presents the client’s plan, a comprehensive discussion by all team members ensues, and notes are taken. These notes will then be used by the associate advisors and insurance associates to request the necessary information needed to prepare for the ASM.
Scheduling the less comprehensive YECs from September to November allows the lead advisor to discuss with each client a variety of topics, such as addressing any impact of tax law changes, reviewing tactical portfolio adjustments and following up on outstanding or time-sensitive items from the ASM. Typically, these meetings will last only 30 minutes.
Create a collaborative culture with your internal team
Employees are the most important resource you have, so as you hire or create career paths, intentionally build a team whose members will best serve your clients and each other. This will ensure that the right resources are developed to support the firm’s growth. It is important to address any challenges or questions the team has on a timely basis to enhance this development, so commit to scheduling standing team meetings and activities, which will reinforce your collaborative approach and exhibit your commitment to developing and maintaining the team culture.
Also consider creating an employee council and internal committees to allow staff to be heard. For example, weekly operations and advisory team meetings should be held to review all business currently in process in addition to addressing any internal items that arose during the past week. Quarterly team-building activities may provide insights into a variety of communication or work styles within the team. Annually, hold a series of training and debrief meetings to identify what is working and what is not, to address the need of additional training and to review workloads and potential changes related to products or regulations. Committees/councils build on the culture of collaboration by creating an opportunity for individuals to work together and have a voice.
Throughout the year it is important to strive to synthesize your learning into your processes as they continuously evolve. As changes are made, it is critical to keep in mind the intentional outcomes you are trying to achieve with your collaborative team approach. You should constantly make operational and business decisions with intentional outcomes in mind. Starting with the “why” will ensure that your team is in alignment with your vision.