4 Life Lessons for Growing Your Firm

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What One Boomer Advisor Circle Taught Me About Accountability and Change

In a room of 50 of your peers, you are asked to be vulnerable, be honest, and dig deep to determine where you need to grow. Aside from sharing your profession, you’re practically surrounded by strangers. Could you bare all and discuss your struggles and wins among partners and directors from other firms? Not all of us could.

But it wasn’t a problem in this Boomer Advisor CircleTM, an event that brings together advisory services leaders. And it was a pleasure to see firms help one another by giving advice on how each overcame similar hurdles. From client technology adoption to scope creep, the discussions were lively and the desire to help all firms succeed was palpable.

As a “granola-loving hippie” (thanks, Ed Kless), I will say that I loved being around these incredible firms who were working together to help each other grow. It was an inspiring, educational, and insightful one-and-a-half days. In such a short time, everyone left the meeting with a 90-day plan for what they should focus on to move their firms forward.

I took copious notes and had walked away with multiple pages of takeaways. It was hard to pick just a few lessons to share, as there were so many good conversations. So here are just four of many key takeaways from the event.

1. Progress and ForwardThinking Starts With You

In Jim Boomer’s opening presentation, he said, “If you know how to be progressive in your own firm, you can be progressive with your clients.” This hit home for me. If you want to have a Client Accounting Services (CAS) division, this is imperative. You need to be forward-thinking and adopt technology that doesn’t focus on the historical data of yesterday or today, but also provides insight for tomorrow.

What products and technology have you adopted to move your firm forward? What services are you offering that other firms aren’t? What areas of your practice show it’s a leading-edge firm? This touches every part of your practice, from the first client interaction on social media to your website to how you engage with and onboard a client. Ask yourself, When did I make my last big change?, so you know if you’re stuck in a rut.

2. Most Clients Don’t Know What’s Possible — Until You Show Them

Most clients don’t know what’s possible because they are focused on running their businesses — what they know and love. They are not focused on researching the technology that will make their lives easier. They don’t have the time or the funds to implement something that doesn’t work, so they keep doing the same things. They work within their comfort zone, writing checks by hand, giving you a box of receipts, and managing their staff’s time cards on Excel or handwritten time cards.

Take a look at your client’s business and lead them by example to the right solutions and show them the value of your suggested processes. They want a leader, someone who will guide them and say, “This is the product stack we will be using to work with you. It will help us be more efficient, save you 15 hours per week, and you will save this much on payroll and decrease costly errors.” When you show clients how much they can save by switching from paper to automated time cards, such as TSheets, they see more clearly the difference you can make.

This conversation should be more about how your firm works with that client and less of a light nudge of processes they should adopt. You are the expert. You attend conferences and online education, and you have clients in the same vertical. You understand what is going to be best for their business.

3. Accountability Is the Difference Between Standing Still and Making Change

When my mom was trying to lose weight, part of her process was to tell a handful of people her current weight and her goal weight. And although she may not like me talking about her journey, I feel the point is relevant. Telling people who love you about your goals helps you accept that you truly want to change. Plus, bringing others along for your journey can help hold you accountable.

If you have plans for your firm’s growth, they’re not doing you any good if they stay locked in your head. You need to write them down and make them public to your team. Only then can everyone work hard and execute on those goals.

Taking the time to write down your plan and talk to others helps you remain accountable. The next step is assigning deadlines to accomplish your goals. Don’t try to change the world in a few days. Be reasonable with yourself and your team about what’s attainable and what the long-term goal is. You want to reach just past the legitimate capabilities of the team.

4. You Can’t Take Risks and Stay in Control

“There is no better risk training than growing up on a farm.” And it’s true. On a farm, you have no control over the weather, insects, or, in my case, the birds that would flock to our orchards and eat all of the cherries off the trees. But you can plan, you can adjust that plan, and you remain fluid to minimize your risks.

Once you have your plan to provide outstanding leadership to your clients, don’t be so set on it that you can’t make adjustments to minimize risks. Always look for ways to improve and be agile in order to reap the benefits of success for you and your client.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I need to provide more education to my client?
  • Do I need to shadow them for a day to offer additional advice?
  • How can I help my client be successful?

As you become more progressive in your practice and begin to take the lead with your clients, you will surpass your growth goals and see client changes that you couldn’t imagine (yes, checkbooks have been set aside). To start, let’s get all of those ideas that you’ve been thinking about on paper. Then choose three of them to focus on in the next 90 days.

Share your plans for accountability and have your team input them to minimize the risks. When it’s your turn to share with your peers, you’ll be able to tell your stories and help someone else leap over those hurdles with ease.

And if you ask me, that’s what life’s all about, reaching out the hand to help someone else.

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