by Tony Vidler
A genuine challenge for advice firms right now is how to find the time to deal with clients as well as do all the work necessary to lift standards and improve business systems.
The pressure is constant: the client demands are increasing and relentless, as are the expectations of other external stakeholders such as regulators and suppliers. The dilemma is every hour or dollar spent with clients is one less for improving the systems and processes – or vice-versa.
The only practical way to balance these challenges is to adopt and constantly promote the concept of “incremental improvement” inside an advice practice.
Rather than try and tackle the necessary changes in one fell swoop by allocating days (or weeks) or thousands of dollars at a time, tackle it the way the proverbial ants eat elephants: one bite at a time.
Incremental improvement consists of working on one small piece each day that improves the process, or system.
For example, instead of spending days re-drafting the template for an advice document perhaps, you would spend 20 minutes getting one part of the template perfect today. It might be just getting the wording precisely the way you want it for the section where you introduce the “recommendation”.
Tomorrow, spend 20 minutes getting the wording right for another piece of the template, such as explaining the basis of the research.
Apart from being an excellent time management technique where you begin to be able to balance the competing demands of dealing with the urgent and the important (which are not always the same thing of course), it alleviates stress throughout your entire organisation. Rather than create a sense of “big improvements are necessary right now” with the potential panic that can arise when people are faced with what seems to be insurmountable challenges, the mindset of “incremental improvement” introduces a calm and orderly approach that results in a continual sense of achievement and progress.
The interesting thing in my experience is that when you look back on the changes successfully made in your processes and systems over any given 2 or 3 month period, those little ant-bites add up to an enormous amount. Serious and significant change can be introduced without significant stress or serious challenge to the running of the practice and the work with clients.
It is the perfect approach for balancing client-facing time together with the back office work that must be done to provide client documentation, whilst also continually moving the practice forward and developing better systems and processes.
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