Solving Operational Pain Points
Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.
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Three years ago, our advisors were complaining about our phone system. I led an internal team that located a new vendor and implemented it. The advisors complained for months after the installation.
Fast forward to the virtual world and the phone system has been a godsend. It has saved us from multiple problems we would have had working virtually with the old system.
Now we are looking at changing over our CRM system. We have received complaints for years from our advisors that it is clunky, difficult to use and unreliable. I am leading a team to locate a new vendor.
While my advisors complain about things and want them fixed, once we take a step and decide to fix whatever it is (e.g., the phone system) and we enhance or improve it, we have to listen to complaints about its problems. It got so wearing on me last time around and I don’t know if I am up for it again.
Is there a way to preempt the complaints? Could I hold a come-to-the-mountain meeting and let them know I am not going to embark on this project unless they are supportive? Do I engage more people, so they are invested in the process?
I don’t want to repeat the mistake and live with the frustration if I can help it.
People love to complain sometimes, don’t they? If you find that by having a meeting in advance and warning them about having no complaints throughout the process works for you, please come back and let me know because I want to patent your approach!
I say this tongue-in-check because even when we call someone’s attention to their behavior, often they will turn it around and make it about us. “Well. you didn’t warn us about the complexity of the new phone system! If you did, we wouldn’t have complained.” This type of thing happens often in firms large and small.
You can’t go back and share what they did before and use this as evidence for what they will do in the future because your advisors won’t see it as apples-to-apples. If you didn’t let them know your frustration at the time, it will be old history and they will think you are making up problems from nothing. Address issues at the time they happen, in a non-confrontational way, to bring someone’s attention to their behavior and its impact on you as a result.
There is some value in having a pre-project meeting to discuss how the project will work including: the process for making the decision, the integration of the new system and how it will impact what you are doing today, how the vendor list for consideration will be shared and reviewed, and any other relevant steps along the way.
Let them know at this meeting, and throughout the process, that when a new system is selected and then implemented it won’t be easy! There will be bumps along the way, but you are expecting support and collaboration to ensure a smoother experience.
Make sure you update them, let them know what has happened and what’s happening next and remind them as many times as possible that you need support – not detractors – in order to make this work well.
We changed over several of our systems during COVID and made changes to some of the roles and responsibilities throughout our RIA of 65 people. Now that we are largely back in the office, chaos has ensued. No one seems to know what their new role entails and one of the systems is sitting idle because advisors and team members are not comfortable using it.
My COO passed away from COVID about seven months ago and we’ve not had a chance to replace him. I have no one to hand the reins to and say, “Fix this”.
Is it best to let it all stay as it is until we hire a new COO? We’ve been searching for the last four months but haven’t found someone who is a good fit for our team. I worry that team members will start to turn on each other. I can sense the frustration levels rising.
I am very sorry for your loss. I’ve personally known 12 people who have been lost to COVID and many more who have been quite ill, some who have lingering conditions. I respect the pain of this loss for your team. It is also such an important role. While you mourn the individual, you are left with a big hole to fill in terms of the responsibilities he left behind. It is a very difficult situation overall.
Don’t wait until someone new is in the seat unless a new hire is imminent, which does not sound likely. I have seen many firms wait it out until someone new comes on board believing that the new person will put their imprint on things. But I also think if you know there is a mess going on you have a responsibility to try and clean it up so someone new isn’t walking into it from day one!
It sounds like short term a review of roles, responsibilities and processes for the new system could be the best focus. My suggestion is this:
- Choose three to four people within the firm you trust to work together. They should ideally represent different areas of the firm and have different viewpoints.
- Give them the charge of working together to understand what’s working and what’s not – establish a desired outcome of how you’d like it to be, then identify the current gaps for focus.
- Ask them to create a series of recommendations on how best to fix things – be sure they are very specific and complete: Who, what, when, how etc.
- Have the group present to the rest of the team and ask for feedback on what they might have missed or what additional information is needed.
- Elect others within the firm to help with implementation. The more people who have ownership, the more likely the new approach will be embraced.
- Contact the vendor for the system you are trying to utilize such that they could offer training or implementation support. Elect someone in the firm to reach out and make this contact.
These steps will alleviate some of the biggest pressures you face. When you find a new COO, if she or he wants to make changes, that will be their decision but at least you will be more organized before this person joins the firm and people will be a bit less stressed waiting for the arrival.
Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995. The firm also founded and manages the Advisors Sales Academy. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate and graduate students Entrepreneurship and Leading Teams. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).
She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.