Business Planning

Should You Be In The Business?

I have had some interesting discussions in the past week with financial advisors and managers of advisors. With the financial downturn everyone is evaluating where they are at. The big question being asked is: “Should you be in the business?”

My feeling is that over the next 1 to 3 years many current advisors will give up or be forced out. When you think there is research showing that 89% of clients are considering switching advisors there is much to think about. The financial services landscape is going to change dramatically. There is no easy street any more. Those totally committed to the industry with the right business model will prosper greatly if they stay with it.

So, getting directly to the point, whether you stay in depends on the answers to the following fundamental questions:

1. What are your talents and expertise?
2. What are you passionate about?
3. What is the vision for your life?
4. What is your purpose?
5. To what extent is money a primary driver of your decisions?

Financial down turns will always bring out what your true desires are. Everything in your life gets called into question particularly when your income goes down and there are angry clients to deal with (rightly or wrongly).

Taking a positive approach, this is a great opportunity to really discover what you love about being a financial advisor and re-create your niche. However, you are going to have to be very committed to work through the changes but it will be exciting and career/business changing.

Fix Corporate Behavior… Fix the Board

I have had some interesting discussions in the past few weeks with business leaders from many different industries and backgrounds in the United States. One of the areas that consistently comes up is poor corporate governance. As mentioned in my last blog most of the economic problems we have right now are due to the behavior of our leaders.

Being direct, alot of leadership behavior is not properly monitored. So, a key step towards fixing the problems we have today would be to change the corporate governance structures in publicly traded companies. In particular, I believe that the roles of Chairman and Chief Executive/President must be separated. You cannot have the Chief Executive of a company also its Chairman. This places far too much power in the hands of one person. Decisions for the company will largely be made by that person ? and while that leader may have many great strengths, he or she may also have alot of blind-spots and biases which will go unchecked. Further, that leader may be tempted to make decisions out of self-interest – whether it be remuneration, selling the company or make any decision which benefits him or her.

You only need to look at the evidence out there to see how many great companies have been destroyed in the last 10 years because there has been a leader who is too dominant and acted out of self interest which has gone unchecked through proper board governance. I do not believe investors should invest in companies who do not have the right corporate governance structure. Having the Chairman and CEO being the same person is very risky and at some point could mean the company is seriously endangered. So, as businesses restructure and investors start looking for good opportunities sound corporate governance should be one of the main factors considered. Taking this point further, the remuneration levels of the CEO’s should be reviewed. Frankly, in many companies they are way out of line compared to the value brought to the table by that person.

Manage the Human Risks in Your Business

At the moment there is alot of talk about the collapsing business and financial environment. For everyone it is having an impact in all sorts of ways. Of course, we all look at the numbers side of the equation; but what about the people side? What are the human risks in your business? How are your people behaving in these times? Then, also, how do you want them to behave to handle the crisis and then build your business going forward?

We have been working with many companies all over the globe on managing and developing their human capital. In this regard, we have been using our Business DNA Business Risks Matrix. Please click on the link to review a summary.

Have a look at the balance of human behavioral risks in your business versus the environmental business risks. You can see alot of attention needs to be given to the employee and leadership behavioral risks. This is where businesses win or lose.

Being very frank, the current financial and business environment has been caused largely by poorly managed human behavior. Poor financial and business circumstances do not entirely happen themselves. Look at the leadership of the companies around you. How we move out of it will depend on all of our behavior. How are you going to be a leader and manage your human capital?

Recently, we launched our new Business DNA behavioral profiles. The insights from these profiles will be outstanding predictors of how your business is going to develop and where many of the roadblocks are. For more information visit: www.businessdnaresources.com

Managing Your Clients Through Turbulent Times

Well the stock market has gone to 10 year lows. Has it hit the bottom? That is not necessarily the crucial issue although this downward spiral will be raising more fears. What is crucial is how you handle this situation in terms of your own behavior and managing that of your clients. If you read my last blog you will see research is showing that advisors are on the whole not going far enough in client discovery and in particular understanding behavior.

Here are some tips for managing your clients which are all based on having greater behavioral understanding:

  1. Help your client to objectively face the reality of their situation. This requires understanding how they will innately respond to times of change and difficulty. Are they a rational decision-maker or a procrastinator?
  2. To make your clients feel comfortable and respond to your advice communicate on their terms not through your lens.
  3. Re-evaluate your clients risk tolerance – most measures of risk tolerance are situational. You really want to know their hard-wired risk tolerance as this will be the paradigm from which they make decisions now and in the future.
  4. Build a behavioral portfolio for your clients – base the asset allocation on who they are.
  5. Review the clients product suitability from a behavioral standpoint.
  6. Re-build the overall financial plan recognizing who the client is and their changed circumstances.
  7. Critical to helping your clients move forward is to help them find what their true life purpose is. After all they will still be breathing tomorrow. So lets get a positive state of mind on how they will live their life.
  8. Review your client service team. Have you got “round pegs in round holes” for serving the clients? The advisor client match process is very important.
  9. Transform the client experience you provide. Look how you can make every aspect of it totally client centric and you will be amazed at the bottom line results.
  10. Project positive energy and confidence. This means being very comfortable with who you are and your planning approach. People like animals sense fears and will react.

Remember times of change and difficulty bring opportunity. Are you up to it?

Uncovering Human Behavior Risks

Generally in business, and particularly in financial services, people associate risk with the markets or economy. What we fail to drill down into are the risks caused by human behavior. Another way of looking at this is to consider how people handle the market risks. What decisions do they make? What solutions do they come up with? How do they manage their emotions? How do they communicate?

In essence, the market risks can be managed or exacerbated by human behavior. So, what needs to be better understood is how your people are going to handle market and economic risks that may be impacting your business. This will be particularly important when they are under pressure. What are their blind spots? What are your blind spots? Then, how will you manage your people so the risks are better managed?

Through our Financial DNA profiles we are able to reliably predict how people will behave and therefore the risks they may cause. Will they take too many chances? Will they be too impatient? Are they too independent and not accountable? We have found that the profiles are able to provide great insights into the true behavior of people when they are under pressure. Having this information can help you put in place the right management controls and also to provide the individuals with more self-awareness of how they will make decisions which could cause or exacerbate market risks. There is no doubt a large part of the success or failure of businesses in the long term comes down to being aware of and managing human behavior. You only have to look at some of the major corporate and banking disasters to see this.

So how aware are you of the risks that your people could be causing to the future of your business?

Money Influences Leadership

In recent weeks I have been doing some leadership development consulting and coaching. The goal of this work has been mainly to help the leaders to build their emotional intelligence and then generally their self awareness of what is driving the decisions they are making.

Typically, most leadership development work of this kind focuses on the person’s behaviors, experiences, the influences of the environments they are in and have come from, their skills and knowledge, and even their states of consciousness. All with the goal of helping the leader understand themselves better and becoming more empowered. Then there is also training on specific leadership methodologies and strategies. None of these factors are to be underestimated as being unimportant, because they all are.

However, there is one factor often missing from the discussion — and that is money. The reality is that the topic of money is missing from the coaching agenda full-stop. Why? Talking about money can be a very emotionally charged issue for both the leader and the consultant/coach. Many people are, when it gets down to it, mystified by money and the power of its impact.

The reality is, money is directly or indirectly wrapped up in some way with every decision that a person makes, and is therefore a very powerful influence. Leadership decisions are no different. You only have to look at some of the decisions made by leaders in the last 10 years and see the devastating outcomes resulting in spectacular corporate collapses, insider trading, bankruptcy. Also, the great corporate performances can be attributed to a healthy money attitude.

Yes, money can be the carrot to incentivize performance, but it can also be the driver of warped decisions. Lets not say all of the bad decisions are deliberate because they are not. Some of them are caused by blind spots or put in another way, a simple lack of awareness.

Nevertheless, the point is that your perspective on money, whether conscious or not, influences your leadership – the decisions you make, the goals you set, action plans, how you manage yourself and others and so on.

So, reflect on how your leadership is influenced by money. Perhaps understanding your own relationship to money will improve the quality of your leadership, corporate results, and ultimately your life.