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Reducing Operational Costs Without Sacrificing Client Service

Living in today’s unpredictable business environment, one of the most frequently asked questions we receive is, “How can we cut our operating costs?” 

Streamlining business operations, while containing overhead costs, is the real secret to profitable growth.  Without coming to grips with reality, your firm will face the risk of severe loss.

Steps that you can take, starting today, to ameliorate issues and make your office more effective and efficient:

  • Establish a Budget –  Before you decide where you can afford to cut costs you must have control over your costs. A budget helps you both analyze expenses and income, as well as allows you to forecast financial variances.
  • Develop and implement systems for everything you do in your firm Implementing workflow processes increase efficiency which will in turn have a positive impact on your bottom line. Many firms tend to overlook their operational systems and workflows especially during a good economy.  Review your firm’s operational systems regularly recognize the static processes because “that is the way it’s always been done”, and be flexible to change.  This is imperative to reducing your operational costs and remaining viable amid the rising costs of operation.
  • Align the responsibilities of your staff members to their specific needs Review workflow for areas that need improvement or display a lack of clarity.  Making revisions in a workflow and ensuring that there are no duplicate efforts or wasted energy will prevent you from superfluous costs.  Besides cost savings, you benefit from significant increases in productivity.
  • Invest in more training –  It may sound ironic to invest more money while trying to reduce costs,  however, investing more in your employees shows them that they are valued.  There is an endless source of training models available online, which in-turn will also reduce your travel expenses.   Employees who feel valued, are more engaged and more productive at work.
  •  Build Strategic Alliances – In our blog “Strategic Alliances Build A Strong Foundation For Long Term Success”     https://aeschlapia.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/strategic-alliances-build-a-foundation-for-long-term-success/   we talked about how building strategic alliances positions your firm to stand apart from the competition.  Share expenses with your alliances by implementing joint advertising/media promotions, shared mailing lists and shared educational workshop expenses.  You will reduce your costs and improve your bottom line by meeting client needs.
  • Outsource  Review the organizational structure of your firm.   Pinpoint which roles could be outsourced, such as payroll or mailings.  Also consider contract employees.  Hire contract employees for special projects or ongoing tasks.  Outsourcing and utilizing contract employees will give you more time to focus on building your business.
  •  Reduce office expenses –  Consider converting to an electronic paperless system when possible and order supplies in bulk.  Shop around for lower prices and negotiate a better price if you agree to purchase all of your supplies from one vendor.  Reduce utility bills as much as possible, but not at the detriment of team effectiveness.

Reducing your operating costs without sacrificing the team’s operational effectiveness, the quality of service, and the value that you provide to your clients, will go a long way towards improving your bottom line.

Keep these principles in mind and implement them.  You’ll find that your reduced operating costs will lead you down the path to substantial growth before you realize it.

Ironstone can assist you in developing the strategies needed to reduce your operating costs while strengthening your relationships with existing and potential clients.  By being held accountable and responsible for the cost cutting steps above, you will gain control of your expenses and move towards a better bottom line.

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!

  • Strategic Planning
  • Business Development
  • Operational Effectiveness
  • The Human Element

You won’t want to miss our next in the series:  The Human Element-The Performance Evaluation

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Success Systems For Your Firm

We are in our second cycle of blogging about Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™, and sincerely hope that you are gaining additional guidance and support for implementing best practices in your firm.

Ironstone focuses on 4 key fundamentals that we refer to as the Fundamental 4.

  • Strategic Planning
  • Business Development
  • Operational Effectiveness
  • The Human Element

Each of the 4 key fundamentals have 8 sub-categories that you will use to begin creating your systems.  Visit our website to see each sub-category to start your system processes.  www.IronstoneHQ.com

In series one, “How To Increase Your Effectiveness,” https://aeschlapia.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/how-to-increase-your-effectiveness/   we reviewed how you can increase your effectiveness by using reports and tracking systems in your firm.  When you define your standard operating procedures and create multiple tracking and reporting systems the operational effectiveness of your firm is improved.

Clients and prospects come into direct contact with each of your systems.  To provide extraordinary service you must pave the path by implementing and updating each system.

How To Start

Start by developing the external and internal processes for each sub-category of the 4 key fundamentals.  Formally communicate these processes with clients and team members in order to achieve the mission and vision you have established for your firm.

 “Inch-By-Inch It’s A Cinch!”

For each process/system that you create, follow these steps:

Step 1:  Introduction

Your introduction should include the following components:

  • Title – name the process
  • Purpose – describe the intention/objective of the process
  • Scope – identify when and to whom the process applies
  • Roles – list the roles and functions of those involved in the process
  • References – include any reference documents that help form parts of this process.

Step 2:  Steps/Procedures

Begin writing a list of each step needed to perform the process.  Each set of procedures must be followed to accomplish a given task.

Step 3:  Mapping

Describe the event and the amount of time that is required for the process.  Describe the inputs, activities, sequences, and decision points within the process.  Use flowcharting to provide a visual aide to the process.  Within this step Ironstone has found that a checklist of each output will help to validate that the action is completed.

In the Mapping Step you should also include exit criteria.   Describe an output’s state (or condition) required before the process or procedure can be considered “complete”.

Step 4:  Metrics

For most processes that you create, you will want to ensure that the process is measured to determine its contribution to your firm.  Determine what key metrics you will monitor and compile data that will demonstrate the ROI from the process. Be sure to review any areas that should be improved.

Step 5:  Document Control

Create a chart that contains the history of any revisions made to your document.  In the chart, include the date, the revisions that were made with a brief description, and the person who made the revision.

Your systems and processes will provide consistency throughout your practice, and Ironstone can provide you with templates and checklists to help you get started as well as review your current processes to identify the gaps that are most commonly overlooked.  Contact us for assistance in creating proven and effective systems for your firm.
 
 
Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™! 

  • Strategic Planning
  • Business Development
  • Operational Effectiveness
  • The Human Element

You won’t want to miss our next in the series:  The Human Element-Leadership


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Workflows & How They Enable Execution Of Your Business Strategy

The objective of Ironstone’s Fundamental4™ –Operational Effectiveness and the New Client Workflow serve as the foundation of your unique process to solve problems, manage interaction, automate tasks, and provide consistency for positive and repeatable impact to the client experience.

In today’s highly competitive market, wealth advisors need an effective Client Workflow System that enables execution of business strategies consistently and cost-effectively. A workflow system consists of a series of written procedures with supporting checklists and templates that document and systemize every aspect of how a firm operates and delivers client service.

The absence of any workflow model in a firm is a primary culprit for office inefficiency.

Client workflow systems should create two primary objectives for your firm, improved efficiency and profitability. They provide the mechanisms needed for all team members to work together seamlessly providing a high level of client service.

Processes that you should include in your client workflow system are:
• Client relationship management
• Internal/external marketing
• Automation of processes between team members
• Generation of management reports
• Integration to back office systems
• Regularly scheduled communication among team members

Each of the processes within your client workflow system are inter-related. Workflow systems will benefit your firm by enabling you to continually provide excellent client service, concentrate on your areas of strength, build accountability for your practice, enable you to deliver more comprehensive services, assist in managing regulatory and compliance related issues, and add value to your firm for re-sale purposes.

Ironstone has found that two key factors are important when implementing a client workflow process; technology and strategy.


Technology:
From a technology perspective your client relationship management system (CRM) should meet some minimum requirements:
Easy to use– Information is easily captured and shared, enhancing your ROI.
Adaptable-Because advisory firms experience a magnitude of change in approaches, regulations and investment climate, you will want a CRM (Client Relationship Management) system to be able to support those changes.
Workflow Engine-One of the most significant areas of productivity improvement is the use of workflow engines that are included with leading CRM solutions.

Strategy:
When developing your new client workflow center your strategy around two priorities, client retention and client acquisition.

Client Retention Workflows aide in client retention for your firm by automating reviews, prompting client interaction, scheduling service reminders, and storing other important client information. With automated processes, you will feel comfortable that things aren’t falling-through-the-cracks and know that your firm is not missing opportunities.

Client Acquisition Position your firm with the capability to be pro-active. When you can deliver targeted marketing and track results, you can transform a prospect into a client. Workflows will automatically trigger logical steps in acquiring a client to ensure that your marketing efforts are executed on a consistent basis.

A workflow system should always be a work in progress. Your practice will evolve and grow, and your firm will encounter regulation, compliance and industry change. Accordingly your workflow process should continue to evolve and be updated.

Ironstone can assist you in developing a comprehensive new client workflow. We specialize in identifying gaps in your existing plan and will collaborate with you to develop solutions that are parallel in achieving the results your desire.  A great way to start is by building checklists.  Download our “How To Create Checklists.” 4.24.12Checklists   Checklists get repetitive activities and routines out of your brain, and let it rise above to focus on the hard stuff.

Contact us for assistance to develop, implement or review or new client workflow. We want to hear from you! Share your best ideas here!
Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!
• Strategic Planning
• Business Development
• Operational Effectiveness
• The Human Element

You won’t want to miss our next in the series: The Human Element-Communication ~ Knowledge is Power, But Fruitless if Poorly Communicated. “
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