Everyone wants quick wins, and I’m no different. Even as a long-term thinker, I love a quick win. All else being equal, 15 minutes a day saved now, means more than an hour a week we can invest into future efficiency initiatives. A lovely little snowball effect!
In my previous blog we discussed an approach for identifying, prioritising, and grouping change initiatives into themes. In particular, we included a framework for identifying ‘no brainers’ and ‘quick wins’.
In this article I’m going to take that one step further into three practical favourites I find regularly landing in the high-value, low-effort no-brainer category.
When thinking about these types of wins, or any time saving initiative, I love this particular xkcd webcomic:
I share this, because it’s important to keep in mind how valuable these investments are and how easy they often can be.
Thinking in these terms, I’ll be specifically covering:
Processes grow increasingly complex with time and they need to be pruned. (See my article on Complexity Creep)
Process pruning is literally my favourite thing. Identifying things that don’t need to be done and removing them from a process. It’s a big part of the ‘Simply’ approach.
Of course, this is much harder than it sounds. Taking the most important part of Kaizen’s 5 W’s approach, asking why we do something is key. Building from Step Two in our last blog, take a look at those areas you’ve identified unlikely to change soon and ask yourself:
- Why do we do this? (You can’t get too granular here!)
- What would happen if we stopped doing this?
Every step, every question, every sentence, every field, every datapoint removed from a process saves time and reduces complexity.
Some common ones I see:
- Asking questions you don’t need to know the answer to
- Having meetings that aren’t needed
- Unnecessary tracking
- SoAs where an RoA will do
- Newsletters without knowing what the open rates are
Often I encounter steps which were implemented intelligently at the time, but no longer apply. This is typically because another process or view has evolved, and we haven’t reviewed other processes. Another common item stems from an outdated view on what clients value.
Some examples of these which I’ve seen include:
- Unneccessary information in SoAs, which was put there to ensure the client knew it, but we now include/document elsewhere in the process.
- Manual tracking of services delivered, even though the reason to start tracking services delivered was no longer relevant.
- Questions being asked in fact finds that have no bearing on the process if left unanswered.
- Documentation being printed and bound with no regard for the method clients would prefer. (Think of whether you’d prefer a movie on DVD or streamable via iTunes/Play Store.)
Now, the real beauty of not doing things is that it forms the best possible bang for buck when it comes to change management! What’s the change? Don’t do it! Training required? 2 seconds!
Self-service that is positive for your client experience
Building on the stop doing stuff idea, self-service is another great option to provide clients. This is a personal favourite because it almost always triggers the trifecta of adviser efficiency, improved client experience, and reduced risk.
For some things, all else being equal, self-service is bad. I wish people would still pump my petrol. If it cost the same, I’d have it pumped by someone else every time.
For other things, self-service is (almost) always good. Seriously, the memory of non-internet banking physically pains me.
For most things, self-service is a great option. Ordering groceries online is great for stuff in packets, great if you’re time poor, great if transport is a pain. For others, being able to go and handpick fruit or add to the cart as you weigh up meal options is important. The choice is a good thing.
Some easy examples of this are:
- Give your clients the option to pre-complete forms.
- Give your clients the option to self-schedule appointments (using Calendly or similar services).
- Give your clients the option to have an appointment remotely (using Zoom or similar).
When we look at these things, sometimes it’s easy to say ‘my clients don’t want that’ or ‘it’s better for me to do that’, but rarely is giving the clients the option a bad thing.
The above examples and many more improve efficiency, reduce risk (due to better evidence/tracking), and improve client experience for those who choose to take up the option. So, why not give the choice?
Finally, working on an advice philosophy or house view is a powerful strategy because it’s one that targets the advisers’ own time. Something critical as adviser time is the most expensive and irreplaceable time in the business, and it’s also the hardest time to free up due to the amount of time they spend with clients (hard to reduce) instead of processing (easy to reduce).
Most advisers I speak to have a relatively blurry idea of how they give advice. There’s a clear vibe, for sure, but they haven’t taken the time to write down why they believe and recommend what they do.
When you look at their advice, you can see how they handle some of the classic trade-offs.
Active vs. Index investment managers. Stepped vs. Level premiums. Gearing vs. ungeared. Complexity vs. Simplicity. Why they systemically recommend a given product.
Most advisers are proud of the pillars of their advice. Heck, advisers that recommend index funds are practically the vegans of the advice world. Yet, it still remains undocumented and hard to scale.
Some of the impacts of this include:
- Adviser dependent – All parts of all strategies must rest with the adviser to craft, often a bottleneck to the advice process.
- Training costs – Costs of training new advisers and paraplanners to align with the house view is several times greater than it needs to be. (Noting this training is almost always conducted by the adviser.)
- Enhanced compliance – One view documented thoroughly, applied and referenced where appropriate, would be far greater than strategies lightly documented each time they are applied.
- Diminished clarity – By being clear on the pillars of your advice you can communicate those pillars easily even if the individual strategies are harder to get across.
- Marketing opportunities – Complex concepts, once written down, can be distilled into points of difference you can communicate to clients in your promotional and educational materials or on your website. However, if you’re not clear, you’ll never get there.
The process crystallizes the fuzzy ideas we all have floating around. This chicken-and-egg problem is probably why writing is intimidating for some people. They don’t think they can write because – in their head, at this moment – they don’t know what they’d write about. But hardly anyone does.Morgan Housel
From a change management perspective, this is another one that is a free kick. It’s taking what has existed in a fuzzy way, and makes it clear. It rarely replaces an existing defined process, it puts structure where there was likely none. As a result, the change management is relatively easy. (The biggest challenge is buy-in from advisers themselves, which is a separate piece entirely.)
Documenting your advice philosophy isn’t an easy project; clarifying the vibe in a way that works in the black and white world of paper can be emotionally and mentally taxing. However, once complete, your advice, efficiency, and compliance will be better for it.
What to do with this brilliant information
Whilst these are all great ideas (if I do say so myself), taking ideas and turning them into action is very important to us. To that end, below are some simple steps you can do right now to turn this brief read into an action step that’ll positively impact your business (and get you those time saving snowball effects we all want):
- Pick which aspect of your business you most want to improve right now:
- Back office costs/efficiency
- Client experience
- Risk management/adviser bottlenecks
- Revisit the associated heading above.
- Take one relevant step:
- Pick one narrow process and try to prune it back as far as possible.
- Pick one self-serve option that clients may appreciate and investigate one tool that could make that easy.
- If scheduling time to document your advice philosophy is too much, create one place to document why you recommend what you recommend. Consider it a new adviser/paraplanner training resource for now and add to it as you think of things.
Have you implemented one of the above in your business? Do you have a question for how this could work for you? Let us know in the comments below.
If you would like help identifying new ideas for your business or simplifying your process, I’d love to chat! You can schedule a virtual coffee with me in the button on the bottom right of this page.