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Do you have the skills set to lead an adviser business?

Advisers running their own business need to be strategic and focused leaders, says business consultant Michelle Hoskin

Advisers who run their own business need to have the strength and ability to be strategic and focused leaders, says Michelle Hoskin, founder of Standards International

She says: “A business needs a focus and if it lacks that, then everybody is simply bobbing around doing what they think is the right thing. I’m a firm believer that mud rolls downhill – if it’s not right at the top, it’s going to be a mess at the bottom.”

Hoskin believes those heading up a business need to show strength and operate like a magnet within the firm, ensuring everybody is pulled in the same direction.

She says: “It’s about strategy and focus. You cannot run a business as an adviser, you need to run it as a business owner and recognise that it’s a very separate role.”


According to Hoskin, who specialises in financial services best practice, the first step to becoming a successful leader is self-awareness.

“When someone sets up a business, it becomes a commercial reflection of themselves. If that person is driven and ambitious, their business will likely reflect that. If their personality is indecisive or lazy, so too will be the business,” she says.

Many advisers running their own business are too thinly spread, especially if the firm is small, and often fail to focus on leadership activities because they find it difficult to switch.

She says: “At the root of the problem is a lack of identity. As an owner, you need to say I’m a leader and I need to dedicate time to being a leader. Successful leaders are able to put different hats on and segment their time. If the business is small and lacking in staff numbers, owners must be able to compartmentalise – today their focus is on being a business owner, tomorrow the focus is on advising clients, the day after marketing.

“If someone does not have the skills to do a certain area, they need to be willing to pay for the expertise. Businesses need access to IT, marketing, HR and so forth. A business cannot survive without the leader taking it forward. I often hear my clients say they want a certain type of business, but they lack the skills or confidence to create it.”

Strengths and vision

Hoskin says a good business leader understands their own strengths and weaknesses and knows which areas they require help with.

“A strong business leader asks themselves where their ultimate strengths lay. Are they a people person? Are they more numerical? Can they incorporate the other side so it’s well-rounded? What they mustn’t do is make the mistake of half-heartedly attempting something – if you want to lead your own business, you have to have self-belief and do it properly.”

She believes the best leaders are those who are driven, have a clear vision of what they want to create and approach it with confidence.

“I always say anyone considering setting up their own business needs to look at 10 key areas within the business and ask themselves what those areas look like. Don’t replicate what you’ve seen before or bring in old habits – the joy of becoming a business leader is that you have a great opportunity to do something new and you should always consider what your firm would look like in an ideal world.”

Hoskin says advisers often fail to recognise that their best client is their business and it’s that which they should be investing in. She encourages owners to set themselves a goal of earning a significant portion of their income over the next year from someone else in the business.

Unsurprisingly, successful business leaders need to inspire loyalty among their staff. She says: “It’s crucial to be nice in this business and any changes to the leader’s disposition can have a detrimental impact on their staff. When you’re growing a business, you will need people to work over and above the call of duty so it’s important to nurture those relationships.”

Taking tough decisions

Hoskin says business owners who have a support network of staff around them, should ask themselves whether they feel lonely and isolated from their team. If the answer is yes, a different approach needs to be taken to become a good leader.

She says: “Yes you’re a business leader, but ultimately you want to work as a team with a shared vision for the firm, so you have to be kind, caring and considerate.”

But while having a human touch is an important aspect of running your own business, a good leader also knows when to act in the best interests of their business and that can often mean making difficult decisions regarding staff.

“When it comes to leadership as an adviser, it’s a very emotional business. You’re dealing with client’s personal circumstances, and potential worries, and on top of that you’re expected to make important business decisions that affect others. If people are drifting along or aren’t pulling their weight, you need to ask yourself if the business really needs them.”

Hoskin says a good leader will know the business inside out and the best way to achieve that is to observe the workings from an outside perspective.

“It’s helpful to get an objective opinion on the business so hire a mentor or coach if you can to give you guidance. Take time out to look at what’s going on – listen to the issues and the challenges and if and why people are moaning. The best leaders are those who open their eyes to the business as a whole,” she says.

If you’re interested in the 10 key areas of a business mentioned by Michelle Hoskin you can contact her at

Visit Standards International website


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