Taking Care of Business
Taking Care of Business: How to articulate your practice’s unique business model
Over the years, I’ve noticed the most successful Investment Advisors know how to articulate their unique business model. For this blog post, I decided to go to an industry authority for her advice. Christine Timms was an Investment Advisor (“IA”) for Merrill Lynch Canada and then CIBC Wood Gundy for a total of 33 years. She was a successful IA reaching her firm’s Chairman’s Club level for the last 24 years of her career. She retired five years ago at career high levels of assets under management and revenue leaving her clientele in the hands of two members of her team.
You have written a series of three Handbooks for the Professional Financial Advisor. Your handbook Business Models for Financial Advisors has resonated with Investment Advisors. Why would you say that is?
IAs have too much to do and not enough time to do it, even if they have large teams. They recognize the need to focus efforts and maximize productivity in order to serve clients well, grow their practice and satisfy compliance requirements. A well thought out, articulated written business model helps Advisors do this. The book provides an organized approach to articulating an Advisor’s unique business model and discusses many practical considerations for the development and implementing of specific business model items. For example, it explains how I narrowed down the investment strategies and choice of securities to include in recommendations to my clients. This is particularly relevant for knowing your product.
During my 33 years as an IA, I met many IAs with long successful careers. I learned that no two IAs are exactly alike. They all have distinguishing characteristics, different skill sets and different clienteles. Each IA employs different combinations of successful and valid approaches to client contact, investing, financial planning, charging clients, etc. The successful IA’s approach to the services offered generally matches the needs of the IA’s unique clientele. There may be almost as many unique business models as there are IAs.
Tell us how an articulated Business Model benefits both Investment Advisors in the early stages of their career as well as more established IAs?
Writing down a complete business model forces an IA to identify exactly what services they are offering or wish to offer and to whom they offer or wish to offer their services. An IA with a written business model will find it easier to stop trying to be “all things to all people.” An IA will be able to focus their on-going learning on topics relevant to a significant number of their clients. It will be easier to choose the most relevant industry courses. It will also be easier to apply solutions found for one client to other clients facing similar situations. As a result, the IA will become more proficient in the services offered and in promoting their services to prospects. All the IA’s clients will benefit, and the IA will maximize the effectiveness of their time and money invested in their career/practice. A well-articulated business model will give added confidence to an IA helping them project confidence to existing and prospective clients. As the IA’s practice grows, it will also provide structure and facilitate the delegation of duties to team members. A well thought out written business model should lead to happier clients as well as more enjoyable and productive workdays for the IA and their team. A win-win!
In addition, IAs looking for a colleague to take over during emergencies or upon retirement will find it easier to compare practices. Furthermore, those looking to be successors will be able to show those retiring how they serve clients compared to the retiring IA’s approach.
You talk about the six components for a Business Model checklist. Can you please elaborate?
I have identified six major components of an IA’s business model
- Identify the most compatible and sustainable clients for your practice
Qualities and expectations of clients you serve
- Establish your unique client service model
What services/products do you wish to offer clients?
- client communication (methods, frequency)
- investing (document investment selection process)
- financial planning (level of forecasting, items covered)
- tax returns and tax strategies
- Determine your processes for delivery of services/products and practice management
How will you implement your service model?
- Determine needed resources and suppliers/sources
What resources are required for the processes you use to deliver the services? What resources are readily available through your firm and external sources? How much of your own time and money is needed?
- Pricing for clients
How and how much are clients paying for the services/products they receive?
- IA compensation
How are you paid?
The work involved in articulating a business model may seem daunting to an IA who juggles so many balls daily. Do you have any additional tips or aids that will help IAs articulate their business models?
As I looked back on my career, I realized that I gradually made groups of inter-related decisions that formed an unarticulated, unwritten business model that was best for the clients I wished to serve. I can see now that the more business model decisions I made, the more focused and efficient my practice became. I had removed the stress of trying to be all things to all people, giving me greater peace of mind. I am confident that I would have arrived at my final business model and all of its benefits sooner, if I had used a written business model development process….so I created a process to provide a quick orderly progression through the six business model components mentioned earlier. I expanded the six business model components into a detailed, customizable, checklist template bundle. The checklists can be used to quickly document, develop or analyse an existing or desired unique business model. They allow an IA to add items and details I may not have thought of to my ready-made lists.
The following link takes the reader to a demo of the templates recently updated to expand the section documenting an Investment Advisor’s investment selection process: www.christinetimms.com/template-tutorials
The handbook includes discussions regarding many of the decisions made by IAs as they progress through the checklists for the various business model components. All three handbooks are available on Amazon.ca and Indigo.ca
Whether you are a new Advisor looking to create a unique business model from scratch, or a seasoned Advisor who wants a refresher, your prospects and clients will benefit from your capabilities.
As usual, there is a song title in this Blog Post. Do you recognize it?
Christine Timms is the author of three Handbooks for the Professional Financial Advisor including “Business Models for Financial Advisors” (available in paperback and ebook). www.christinetimms.com provides descriptions and testimonials, as well as written, audio versions of the introductions of each book and video demos/tutorials for downloadable templates www.christinetimms.com/template-tutorials .
Jennifer Kuta is a Vice President, Business Development and Sales at Caldwell Investment Management Ltd. and is responsible for providing sales support to portfolio managers, wholesalers and external investment advisors. Prior to joining Caldwell, she was an independent business consultant and trainer with more than 25 years of experience in selling, facilitating and coaching within the financial services industry. Over this period, she has been committed to working with advisors to help them build their businesses.
Partners in Prospecting addresses common concerns Investment Advisors face daily. The blog aims to provide step-by-step solutions to arm our Partners with viable solutions. If you would like to read more of Partners in Prospecting blog posts, click here.
Caldwell Investment Management Ltd. is a leading independent investment management firm that has been providing multiple award-winning innovative solutions to meet the requirements of individual and institutional investors for over three decades.
Caldwell Investment Management Ltd. is committed to partnering with advisors in their practice and to offer solutions to help build their business
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