Wouldn’t it be nice if every decision you made for your practice were the right one? Possessing such a gift would make you the smartest, richest, and most admired financial professional in the world. But of course, the very concept is entirely unrealistic. Even so, it is possible to make good decisions the vast majority of the time simply by following a four-step process.
In looking for a superior way to justify the decisions I was making in my own business, I started adopting useful measures some years ago. Through a painful trial-and-error process of adding new standards and eliminating useless ones, I finally landed a formula that has changed my life. Before making any business decision, I always ask myself four questions (in order of priority):
How will making this decision affect:
- My clients?
- My employees?
- My personal career?
Let me expound on each of these for a moment.
Without consumers, no business can thrive. That’s why the very first person that should be considered in any decision is the client. Too many advisors put profits ahead of client experience, and this is a fatal mistake. It can also create an ethical and compliance dilemma if suitability or failure to live up to fiduciary standards becomes an issue. By creating a culture that puts clients first, extraordinary levels of customer-satisfaction will drive brand loyalty, repeat business, referrals, and ultimately, growth.
Even if a decision is the right one for you, your clients, and profits, you can create a huge problem if you fail to think about how it will affect your employees. Before implementing large changes, gather feedback from your team and make sure you understand what the implications will be on workflow, workload, and productivity. If your whole team is bought into the decision, you will dramatically increase your chance of success.
Profit isn’t a dirty word unless it is placed ahead of clients and employees. When the rubber meets the road, very few decisions are wise unless they are profitable. If you’re making a purchase, ensure you know all the costs and can measure the financial impact it will have on your business. If you’re adding a product or a service, measure the operational and manufacturing costs carefully and establish clear profit margins and selling prices before acting.
If each of the first three factors aligns, then you probably need to move forward with your decision feeling confident it’s the right one. Even though it is hard to do, there may be times when doing so requires you to sacrifice your own personal ambitions for the good of others. At the same time though, knowing how a decision will impact your personal career is important. Let’s say you are torn on a decision because it will be good for your customers and your people, but not that great for profits. Thinking about its impact on your personal career may provide the extra help you need to make the decision.
In most cases, the benefits and drawbacks of any given decision are not black and white. Often, you will find that more than one decision could be the right one. Even so, by testing every decision to see whether it will have a positive impact on your clients, your employees, profits, and yourself, you will be better equipped to make confident decisions that will improve your business.