Every firm has something they want to improve. Usually, the improvements involve a process or procedure within your firm. A process is the high level view of what work is done in your organization, while procedures are the detailed steps that need to be performed to complete the process. Whatever terms your firm uses (system, process, procedure, task, etc.), just make sure everyone in the organization is using the same term for the same meaning.
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Of the many projects and tasks your firm has on its “To Do” list to improve to become a more efficient firm, it is important to identify those involving processes and procedures that move the firm toward your longer-term goals. Some are more important than others.
To become an efficient firm, evaluate each step of every process your firm does, from the time a prospect is identified to the time a client exits the firm.
So, how do you decide which processes or procedures to focus on to move your firm ahead and how does a firm actually make progress toward improvement?
Here are eight ideas to help you identify and upgrade processes and procedures most in need of improvement within your firm and will help you become a more efficient firm.
Identify processes that need immediate attention. Which processes consume too much time (often because they are done manually), are potentially prone to errors or can be eliminated? Which processes does your staff complain about? Have you asked your staff which processes are inefficient and need to be changed? Or, like many firms, do you continue to do things a particular way because “that is the way we have always done them.”
Dedicate time to identifying and examining each step in every process your firm uses. Who completes each procedural step in the process and is that person the appropriate person to complete the task? Should the task be delegated to another staff member or outsourced? How does the current process work and how should it work? Are there steps that are not needed or duplicated?
Create a process flow diagram for detailed processes. Some processes can be broken down into steps with a diagram. Using a diagram for breaking down the processes can help identify areas for improvement.
Can the process be measured- if so how? Based on time, errors, or other measure. If it can be measured, it will be easier to identify improvements made to the processes.
The employee accountable for the process should be responsible for documenting how the process currently works, recommend changes, and provide input on where the handoffs should occur. This begins with having clearly defined roles in your firm. Each person needs to know exactly what their role is and what their responsibilities include. This is also important because it makes them feel engaged in their position and that they are contributing to the success of the firm. Ask your employees for improvement suggestions. Create a culture of based on continuous improvement.
Create a group of employees (preferably from different departments- operations, client service, advisors, etc) to develop improved processes. This works well for larger firms or firms that are growing rapidly. Have this group work on coming up with ideas for improving the particular process if it involves various roles or departments. How should the process ultimately be completed in your firm- to fit your way of doing business? How will the new process improve the workflow in the organization and benefit clients now and as you grow?
Imbed and document the process. Make sure the new process is communicated and followed throughout the firm. Oftentimes, the new process will require changes to the handoff between individuals or departments. Document the new process(es) and/or procedure(s) in your Policies and Procedures Manual. Make it the “Company X” way (your company way) of doing business.
Utilize the features and functions of your software to create more efficiency. Often, the various software used by financial advisors is underutilized. There are features and functions that don’t get used that could help improve how work gets done. Additionally, it is extremely important that your staff receive proper training on the software to be able to use it to its full capability. If you are purchasing software in order to improve your firm, make sure to include software training in the software budget.
Continuously review your processes and procedures and identify those needing improvement. Select those that need to be corrected now and put those at the top of your list. Continually identifying ways to improve your processes and procedures will allow your firm to create efficiencies and build a more scalable and sellable business.
Build your business wisely.