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Why it was time we used a business consultant

Jacksons Wealth Management recently bought in the services of a business consultant to help design its future business proposition and strategy. ABR editor Rob Kingsbury asked MD Pete Matthew what was the tipping point at which the company decided it needed to bring in the extra help

Penzance-based Jacksons Wealth Management is a financial planning company going in the right direction. After 24 years the company has just moved premises to a building that will allow it to expand four fold; through his Meaningful Money videos and podcasts MD Pete Matthew is attracting a steady flow of new business from all around the country; he enjoys a high profile in the industry because of his social media success and is asked to speak at conferences and events; and the firm has just taken on a new adviser, two new members of staff and is looking for a paraplanner to join the team. So why did the firm’s directors feel there was a need to bring in a business consultant to help develop its future business strategy?

Matthew explains the directors felt it was the logical step to take at the end of an almost eight-year transition process.

“We’re a 40-year-old practice and were coming off the back of a fairly lengthy transition process which started with me buying into the company in 2007 and ended in December 2013 when the last of the senior colleagues retired. I knew what kind of business I wanted to build and the directors at the time brought me in to do that but at the same time they were never going to be a part of that, so it was a long transition.

“We’ve come a long way from the traditional IFA which was what the practice was in 2007, to a much more rounded company but the fact is, we’ve still got a long way to go. There’s a lot that we can do better than we are doing and I’d wanted to bring in someone for a while because I had come to the end of what I could do with the resources we have now and I kind of needed a steer on what was next,” Matthew says.

“I knew that an external set of eyes on the business would be really refreshing and help us understand what we needed to do to be better than we are, and what was most important for us to focus on first.”

The firm started to look at its business proposition in early 2014 but quite quickly the opportunity to move premises sprang up, a process that took far longer and was more convoluted than expected, says Matthew, immediately followed by the need to find three new members of staff. However, by November 2014 the firm felt it was “in a good place” to move forward. “We had fantastic new premises, with room to grow and a professional environment into which to bring clients. We felt now we had to look at how we attracted more clients and what kind of a business we wanted to be from this point. So bringing in someone was the logical next step, to provide us with a steer and focus for the first six months of this year,” Matthew says.

Three-part process

The chosen consultant was Rob Stevenson of Kingmakers Ltd. “I knew Rob already and he also came highly recommended. He also wrote a white paper called Creating Sustainable Growth and Realisable Enterprise Value in Financial Planning Businesses, which I downloaded from AdviserBusinessReview.com, which I thought was dynamite. It was that which sealed it for us really – we wanted someone to take us through the bigger picture and think strategically.”

Stevenson spent two days with the firm in January. The first day, Matthew says, was a scene setter. “He took us through a basic fact finding process, so he could get a feel for us as a business. So, he asked questions like why we do what we do, why we are in business, the kind of clients we deal with, the amount of funds under management, the number of new clients we take on per year and so on.

“Rob’s a guy with experience of working with a lot of different people all working in their own way and as we went though the process he was able to cut to the chase and ask the questions we really needed to ask of ourselves. Questions like: Why are you doing that? Why aren’t you doing this? And most significantly, why are you even getting out of bed in the morning to come to do this job? Worryingly for us, this was difficult to answer. So he kept coming back to it, because his premise and rightly so, is that you need to identify that why, that reason to be in business, before you even start to look to develop your proposition to meet the needs of the people you want to deal with, let alone start to look at things like marketing.”

By the end of the second session, which consisted of Stevenson and the directors going through his observations and constructing a three-year road map, the most important focus for the company turned out to be the most fundamental to the business. “Proposition turned out to be the most important thing that we’ve got to get fixed. We don’t have our proposition as well written down or as well articulated as we should do and you’ve got to know what it is your putting out there and who it is you’re putting it out there to before you even start thinking about any of the other parts of the process.”

Part of the process was to think about the value of the business, Matthew says. “While we have no intention of selling to anybody, Rob has worked with a lot of firms who are acquiring and looking to be acquired so he knows what an attractive firm looks like. So we can apply those things even if we have no intention of selling.”

Deliverables and cost

The final part of the consultancy process is for Jacksons to work with Stevenson to come up with deliverables, what needs to be done and by when in order to move forward. “Our task then will be to roll that out as part of a three-year road map,” says Matthew. “It will be a trajectory for us over the three years, including financials, the number of new clients we need to bring on board, the number of advisers we need in order to grow to the size we want to be and a fairly clear path to run on in terms of cash flow and so on.”

The cost of the process, says Matthew, without disclosing actual figures, “has been the meetings we’ve had in January, and the plan that comes off the back of it. In many ways it’s like financial planning; the first meeting Rob got to know us, the second was a refining meeting and confirming what he was doing for us, and the final stage is the delivery of a really good plan to work to. We then intend to use this year to work through that plan so that by the end of the year we’ll have enough in place, including the marketing, for us to really hit the market hard in 2016.”

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