One of the biggest mistakes I see with owners of advisory firms is they do not make the time to invest in operations. By operations, I’m referring to the development core systems, workflows, and infrastructure needed to efficiently provide a consistent level of client service. Failure to focus on operations over time can hinder a firm’s ability to stay profitable. For some firms, the idea of operations management may seem like an overwhelming task. As with any large project, the best way to tackle it is by breaking it down into small, manageable steps. Here are a few practical, easy ways to streamline your company’s operations in order to improve efficiency and increase productivity.
1. Consider Multiple Monitors – While most advisors have adopted multiple monitors in their offices, some are still behind the curve. The emergence of paperless technology is a great reason to embrace multiple monitors. Using multiple monitors allows employees to prepare documents or financial plans on one monitor while referring to information on another monitor. Before you add extra monitors for everyone in the office, consider which employees are ideal candidates based on their roles and responsibilities.
2. Maintain Adequate Office Supplies – I once worked in an office where I was asked early on to prepare account paperwork for several clients. My first instinct was to go to the “supply room” and gather all the materials I needed – a stapler, sign here stickers, highlighters, etc. I was surprised to find that many of these items were shared among several employees and the office was short on some much needed items. Needless to say, I spent more time going from desk to desk rounding up supplies than I did completing the paperwork. While you may not want to have an endless amount of supplies for employees to waste, it is important that each employee have basic necessities so they can complete tasks in the most efficient manner possible.
3. Assess Your Printing Environment – Your company’s printing environment is largely determined by the size of your office and how many documents your office prints on a regular basis. As you expand your business, think about your current printing environment and see if making a change would improve productivity. Adding more printers does not automatically solve your problem. While there is no “one size fits all” solution when it comes to printing setup, the ideal solution is a mix of desktop printers, shared printers, and standalone copiers. Relying on a single shared standalone printer/copier can kill productivity and hurt the bottom line.
4. Hire an Assistant – As a business owner, you understand that your time is valuable and it should be spent doing tasks that generate revenue. The time of your relationship managers, financial planners, and portfolio managers is also important and it should be spent on value-added tasks. Delegate routine and time consuming tasks to administrative staff. Competent assistants and administrative staff not only provide value because they free up your time, they also provide intangible benefits, such as peace of mind and improved quality of life.
While the suggestions above are very practical, I would be remiss if I failed to mention another effective way to identify inefficiencies: Listen to your staff. They are often involved in day-to-day operations more than you are so they know what works and what does not. Encourage your staff to find solutions that increase their capacity without adding more employees – and reward them for doing so.
Making the time to focus on operations can create more capacity for you and your staff. By creating more capacity, you can serve more clients and provide quality, consistent service.