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21% revenue increase in year after using business consultant

ABR editor Rob Kingsbury talks to Pete Matthew, MD of Jacksons Wealth Management, about how the firm has added 21% of revenue in the year after bringing in a business strategy consultant and is looking to add another 20% in 2016.

See also Rob’s earlier interview with Pete: Why it was time we used a business consultant

2015 was a record year for Jacksons Wealth Management. The firm added 21% of revenue to its top line and establish the infrastructure and processes for further growth this year.

“We have a huge task to achieve this year but we think it’s do-able and that will add another 20% of revenue, says managing director Pete Matthew.

As well as adding to the top line, Matthew says the firm will be looking to widen its profit margin. “We smashed our targets for 2015 but we spent a lot of money over the year; we incurred costs from our move into larger, more impressive offices, increased our headcount, brought in new software and so on. This year it will be about the bottom line as well.”

In early 2015 the firm brought in Kingmaker Groups’ Rob Stevenson to consult on the firm’s strategy and where it could improve if it was to grow in the way that it wanted over the next few years.

“We had been taking the company through a long transition process and had come to the point where what we were looking for was help with our strategy, which we could then take forward and implement from the practical side,” Matthew says.

“When Rob came in we establish that we were already 80-85% there but what he did was give us the steer we needed to take everything to the next level.”

Punchy targets

During 2015 Jacksons doubled its support staff. The firm now has six advisers (two of whom are self-employed) and eight support staff.

“We needed to put in place the people and the collateral and to begin to communicate what we wanted to do to the staff. So that’s what we spent the year doing,” Matthew says. “We really fired up the advisers, set a fairly punchy target for new business written and pretty much smashed that out of the water, bringing in around £16million of new funds under management.”

However, having put in the infrastructure for the business to thrive going forward and boosting new business – as well benefitting from Meaningful Money, Matthew’s personal finance education channel, which, he says, was “bringing in 2-3 decent enquiries a week” in the latter part of the year – Matthew adds he made “the time honoured mistake” of not being selective about the type of business that would be right for the company.

“I found I had a huge pre-sale pipeline that I could not deal with within a reasonable timescale which meant I had to go back to people and re-manage expectations.

“So even though it was spectacular year for us, I’ll remember September-November as one of the most difficult quarters of my career, in terms of my stress levels due to workload.”

However, the firm used that experience to refine its onboarding process, he explains. “We’re vetting new enquiries much more carefully. Previously an enquiry that came in would just be allocated to an adviser but now either myself or one of the other directors will call the client back to ask some more questions. Then we look to put the client with the right adviser with the right skill set to work with them.”

Looking for a Minder

Likewise, the firm is introducing a more structured approach to dealing with client workload. In particular, it is looking to create roles directly behind the advisers, tasked with managing and building client relationships, further freeing up the advisers to tackle marketing and new business.

Matthew explains the concept: “Advisers will be focused on finding new business and developing it. Behind them will be the minders, helping advisers to manage and tend their existing client banks. Backing all that up are the support staff, getting the valuations, researching and putting together statements for clients.”

Matthew acknowledges that the Minder skill set may not be an easy one to find “because most advisers want to be going out hunting”, and also that it will be a cost to the business, rather than a revenue generator per se.

“But in order to get to the next level, finding a minder and freeing up more of our advisers’ time is going to be key this year,” he says.

Ramping up the marketing

One of the main areas for improvement highlighted in the consulting process, Matthew says, was that while the firm had its proposition in place, “we just weren’t articulating it very well”. So the first thing the firm did was produce a brochure, making clear what the firm offered, what the client experience was and “more about how we do things and our culture”. That was an easy win from day one, Matthew says.

Stevenson also pointed out that all the skills and experience Matthew had built up from doing MeaningfulMoney over six years, in terms of online marketing, wasn’t being properly harnessed by Jacksons.

As a result, in 2016 Matthew is dedicating Monday afternoons to marketing. “The idea is for me to ramp up the marketing again this year, and keep a granular eye on it so that we’re better at distributing the leads and none of us is swamped,” he says.

Looking ahead

Overall, Matthew says, the process the firm has taken over the past year “means we’re running the company like a proper business rather than a collective of advisers muddling their way through.”

So much so that the team is ahead of the plan set in the consultant meetings back in early 2015, Matthew adds.

“Our experience of working with Rob was very positive. It wasn’t a radical shift that we needed to make, rather a kick up to the next level. We’re pushing very hard again this year but hoping to enjoy more of the fruits from it.

“We have targets for 2017 and 2018 and, ultimately, as a business we have to decide how big we want to be. Are we aiming at a £2m turnover a year or a £5m turnover a year business? Those are the questions we have to ask of ourselves.”

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