How one professional services firm changed their culture and had their most profitable year yet.
In five short years Brian, business partner Phil Smith, and the HFP team have reshaped what was a typical, and reasonably profitable, financial planning firm into a local super star.
In FY15, they smashed their previous financial performance with EBIT up 40%. Overall, the firm’s profit shows a 12-fold increase since 2010.
How did they do it?
There were two prongs to HFP’s approach: finding out what their clients really wanted and valued, and what their staff really wanted and valued.
Organising to consistently deliver on those wants and values has proved key to HFP’s success.
Finding out what clients really want and actually value
HFP invested in an externally run client feedback program to gather data on different aspects of HFP’s service model. They have run the feedback program for the last three years.
As Brian told us, ‘initially it was bit of a risky thing, we thought this could be scary. But the benefit of finding out exactly what they think is just amazing.’
For instance, it turned out that most of HFP’s clients didn’t give a hoot about detailed technical product knowledge. In fact, what they really wanted was recommendations and advice to guide them in their own financial decisions.
The selling of investment products themselves is no longer front and centre for HFP, but rather providing quality advisory services to their clients.
‘Our goal is to maximise the probability of a client achieving their financial destiny,’ explains Brian. Acting on this realisation, HFP moved away from the old commission-based model to a new fee-for-service model. As a result, clients and advisors are much happier with the focus on advice rather than selling.
A surprise to the firm was the valuable business development intelligence that client feedback results provided. The firm is now busily designing a new advisory service directed to helping clients refinance their mortgages, as clients indicated this was an area of concern.
To ensure clients consistently receive value and great service, HFP implemented a few simple processes ranging from regularly asking for personal introductions (the firm’s preferred term for referrals), to using specially developed scripts in client meetings.
Despite the initial challenge and hesitation in using scripts, Brian notes ‘we adapt the scripts all the time now. And we know exactly what’s being said during every meeting, therefore from a compliance point of view, I’m not scared about what’s being said in meetings I’m not involved in.’
Shifting team culture – would anyone like a tea or coffee?
When Brian came aboard in 2009, he saw many siloed teams. To break down barriers, he simply started asking staff if they wanted a tea or coffee.
‘Now that was met with a bit of suspicion, initially,’ recalls Brian. ‘What does this CEO want from me? So I kept at it, they then realised he’s actually genuine, he wants to make me a tea or coffee. And that flowed through to everybody. Phil and I do it all the time, everybody now does it. New staff realise, oh, this is part of the culture here.’
Basically, it’s just good manners. But it’s also a simple, disarming way to stimulate interaction and strengthen the dynamic between all team members.
Other things the firm has implemented include team-developed and agreed HFP values, regular BD meetings where team members keep each other accountable on the number of personal introductions asked for, and an additional paid leave day every five weeks for each team member (on top of their regular annual leave).
As Brian relates, the cultural shift took time, but has had fantastic benefits. ‘Eventually, as I learnt to leave my ego at the door and involve the team, the sense of ownership from the team went up, and the ownership of the clients went up, and the whole system that we have now developed is really being driven by the team.’
So by listening to their clients and their team, finding out what mattered to them, and then implementing a few simple processes consistently, HFP are having their best year yet.
Directors Brian and Phil now only work four days a week, and the firm is doing so well that everyone is being treated to a week’s holiday in Fiji later this year (with their partners). Yes – the whole team, for a whole week!
If your firm’s business development could use a re-direct or a boost to improve your prosperity and profitability, contact us to find out how we can help.
Tender readability remains a problem for some in the 21st century. I still see submission documents that cling to a handful of really old hat tender presentation and formatting techniques. I suspect this is because some of these ‘rules’ are viewed as being more appropriate to a ‘formal’ style of document such as a tender. […]