by Tony Vidler
One of the most brilliant strategies I remember ever hearing was the “Broken Windows” concept, which was used in New York as a method of creating safer public transport to begin with, but rapidly gained traction elsewhere.
The concept was a brilliantly simple one: focus resources on the easy wins initially, which would in turn flow through into preventing the bigger and more dangerous issues becoming issues at all. So instead of putting police on trains, put police at the gates to prevent the ticket jumpers…after all, the people willing to commit the small crimes (not buying a ticket) were the ones most likely to progress to the bigger crimes(mugging commuters); whereas those who didn’t commit small crimes (they bought tickets) were unlikely to commit more severe ones. In fairly short order the police were using the same strategy and focussing on preventing, or holding accountable, those committing meaningless acts of vandalism and destruction – hence the “broken windows” label – or interfering with the law-abiding citizens.
It was “sweating the small stuff”…and it was a game changer for the citizens of the city at the time.
Perhaps 15 years or so down the track I have been thinking of the “broken windows” strategy quite a bit while discussing strategy with a number of firms in recent times, because it is absolutely appropriate for the times we are operating in right now. There is so much that financial advisers simply cannot control that has an impact on business performance and business value that we have to find the areas that we can actually control if we do want to build value, rather than find ourselves simply reacting to external influences continually and watching business value be eroded.
Those external influences such as increased regulatory and consumer oversight & liability; increased litigation or complaints risks; volatile product and market performance; poor public image; revenue and remuneration squeezes; increasing costs….they all contribute to it being a much tougher market for the professional services firm now than ever before perhaps. And we can only react to most of those developments; we cannot control any of these things.
So it makes sense to concentrate energy and resources on those things we can control: individual relationships with our clients. Sweat the small stuff in how we provide service and manage our client relationships. Despite all the distractions and external pressures on financial services practices, by concentrating on getting the small things right in our client relationships and client communications we can develop more valuable businesses on a client by client basis.