The Power of Process

I was thinking about this question today, “How do you make processes and procedures compelling?

Just mention the word process and most people give you that 1000-mile stare, quickly changing the subject. What comes to mind are those endless pages of flow charts and check lists most of which are gathering dust on your desktop either physically or electronically.

Poor processes–stuck in a file titled Processes and Procedures that goes unopened for years but you are afraid to trash lest someone ask for it.

And yet, what happens when there are none? Chaos! How many reruns of Restaurant Impossible or Kitchen Nightmares do you need to watch before the consequences of the absence of process become obvious–employees running around doing every job with some work not getting done at all?

Have you ever watched a group of 5-year-olds play T-ball? The batter hits the ball and the entire team runs to pick it up, including the batter. You get the picture.
Processes create order and structure. Great processes produce thriving, dynamic businesses. The reason is simple: work gets done right the first time-quickly and efficiently. It may seem tedious to create a process for everything and it is, but not doing so causes more problems. All advisory firms should have processes for the following:

  1. Developing Leads and Prospects, or Client Acquisition – (At January’s TD Ameritrade conference, Speaker Simon Sinek author of Leaders Eat Last, was offended by this term. He has a point!) No matter what terminology you use, finding new clients so that your firm grows and prospers is vital. How that is accomplished so that it can be duplicated and sustained requires a process.
  2. Client Welcoming– From new account opening to sending a welcome package, the process for ensuring a new client is appreciated and valued is of the utmost importance. Mistakes made at this stage of the relationship can be a deal killer.
  3. Client Offerings – Every firm should ask these questions: What value do we add to our clients’ lives? What do we do beyond investing assets? Do we offer financial planning, estate planning, tax planning or other services? How are these offerings delivered- by meetings, emails, newsletters, webinars, conference calls? Then develop a process to ensure every client receives the best the firm has to offer.
  4. Client Meetings – From the moment clients schedule an appointment the process needs to communicate consistency, reliability and meaningful content. According to a study by Spectrem Group titled Today’s affluent investors: insights and opportunities “85% of those [clients] with more than $5 million in assets are happy with the frequency of their meetings with advisors, but only 51% describe the content in those meetings as excellent.”
  5. Ongoing Client Services – This includes everything from sending money to clients’ bank accounts to providing 1099s to their CPAs. How does the firm fulfill these requests quickly and accurately?

Processes reduce stress. Handling investments for clients is stressful enough. After all, you are responsible for what is, in most cases, a person’s life savings. Defined processes reduce the need to double check the completion of paperwork and the fear that tasks are falling through the cracks. In addition, every process needs accompanying checklists to prevent errors and create efficiency. Every step of the process needs a person responsible for that step.

When the business has the right people, doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason, calm and clarity result.

Processes provide freedom—the freedom to focus on what is most important in any business: creating opportunities for growth and sustainability. According to an independent study conducted by Pershing “More than eight in 10 advisors want to spend more time attracting new clients and nearly as many believe that they could grow faster if they had better time management tools or processes” (Inaugural Study of Advisory Success, 2013).

Think of a process as a journey–a way of ensuring you get where you want to go. The road map has every turn and the name of every highway. The flow charts and swim lanes have every step and every action defined and ordered.

Now think of making the journey for the 17th time. Do you still need the map? The same is true of processes and procedures. The reason they are stuck in the file on your desktop is because you and your employees have internalized them. They have become part of the daily routine. You now know how to get to the destination.

The power of process is in living it.