I am Concerned About Our Reputation
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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We are transitioning from largely an investment management shop to a full-scale life-planning advisory firm. We’ve implemented new software to assist us in this process and we’ve hired a consultant to work with our advisors on not only the components of a life-planning discussion, but how to talk with clients about personal issues.
The problem we are encountering is that many of our advisors push back against this approach because they believe this is not what our clients hired us to do. Advisors claim that in some cases the client has accused the advisor of being pushy or nosy about their personal lives.
As the founder of the firm, I am concerned about our reputation and client satisfaction. I believe going to full planning is the right thing to do. But I don’t want my advisors upsetting clients who are satisfied with what we’re doing. Are advisory firms taking a hybrid approach in these situations? What are some best practices for shifting the approach?
You are talking about a major business-strategy transition. There are a number of important nuances to what you are asking. I have a few questions for you to consider:
- Did the shift you are making come about because of client requests and you are responding to this, or was this a change your team determined was important for your business?
- Are you also shifting your marketing story, including your value proposition, or are you incorporating this new approach without a public presence and story line to go with it?
- Is there a clear process for rollout by the advisors – i.e., identifying clients by segment, determining who will be best suited for the process and in what order?
- Did you add staff for this change? Are your advisors also the planners or do they have financial planning support available to them?
- Is it a one-off or for a couple of clients who are pushing back? Do you know the circumstances? In other words, is this truly a trend that your existing clients have a different expectation based on your past history, or is this the case that a couple of advisors might have presented the new approach in a bit of a negative fashion, so the clients reacted accordingly?
- Are your advisors in support of this change? Is the consultant receiving push-back as he/she works with your team members to help with implementation?
There are a number of considerations that could be making this more difficult than it needs to be, but these are important considerations.
I am making a few important assumptions: You have – as a firm – determined this shift is important and that your advisors are on board with it; you are aligning your public story and marketing with this shift; and your consultant is partnering with your team to help with a segmentation and then the tactical presentation of this opportunity to clients. If so, you are in the middle of a transition that will likely take time for everyone to embrace – your advisors and clients alike.
What you are doing is in the best interest of your clients. All too often investments are made with a target number, but the number has no meaning behind it. Money should have meaning and helping your clients see this is critically important to their overall planning.
As we implement a new process for our investment committee. We are getting push-back from several of the long-time members who consider what we are doing to be overkill. It’s not that we’ve had problems with our process or strategy; it is that we had a consultant work with us who advised us (for compliance reasons) to have a more predictable process with strict documentation.
How do you overcome pushback when you are doing something that ultimately is best for the firm?
We like stasis. Unless something is upsetting and clearly needs to be changed, we will seek to stay where we are. Whenever something is changed that either isn’t of our choosing, or someone insists we operate in a new manner, push-back is inevitable, at least to some degree. Keep this in mind. Your team members aren’t negating the steps and the process as much as they are letting you know that doing something new and different changes their world.
I have a process I use with firms undergoing change and I’ll outline it here again for you. It could be useful as you navigate what sounds like a necessary move to make. I call this process SHIFT®:
- Specify your desired outcome. Often team members want to “see” where you are going and what the end will look like. They can more easily cooperate with the process if they know where the process is leading them for the final goal.
- Highlight the obstacles and categorize them so that your team members know that you understand there are obstacles in the way. People need to vent and explore what might make the change difficult. This isn’t a bad thing; it orients the team to what needs to be included in the plan. Once you list the obstacles, categorize them into those your team can control, can influence or are out of their control. Focus on the first two.
- Identify the human factor. Who could be a champion for this process? Who could work together to come up with reasonable next steps? Who will be most impacted by the change? Most shifts don’t include considering the biggest component – the people! Take them into consideration and involve them in the process.
- Find your alternatives. Based on the consultant’s feedback, this is a necessary change to make but unless he/she gave you the clear process with essential steps, you probably have some flexibility in how to implement this change. Can you work with your advisors to consider options – the pros and the cons based upon your “S” – desired outcome and “H” – your obstacles? It helps to see there are different approaches, so your advisors don’t think they have something being shoved down their throats.
- Take the clear steps and outline the who, what, when and how. Many times people resist change because they aren’t sure exactly what to do and how to do it and they don’t know where their role begins and ends. Be sure the process to make this change happen is clear and everyone understands what is going to happen and when.
Too many firm leaders will think just because a change has been decided and communicated that everyone is going to jump on the process and help make it happen. But you have to have a clear process for people to understand and get involved. Review what you are doing and make sure you have this before you assume your team is resisting just to be difficult.
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.