SITUATION: The COVID-19 pandemic continues and is likely to continue for the next few years.
We have lived for almost two years with the COVID-19 pandemic and various levels of lockdown, with the first one, at Level 5, starting on 26 March 2020. During this time, we have seen how FSPs have adapted their business models to deal with the changes required to be able to remain in business. Despite many FSPs implementing changes, there is still a need to adapt business models in order to ensure their businesses remain profitable.
CONCERN: How do you keep your business profitable? How do you earn profits during a pandemic and ensure the business remains profitable in the future? How do you take care of your family and employees and keep your existing clients? Financially, how much income do you need to cover expenses and ensure profitability?
Having a business plan is important for all FSPs, whether they are new entrants into financial services applying for an FSCA licence or existing FSPs with years of experience. Why? Because a business plan is the roadmap that provides the owner and/or Key Individual with direction in terms of specific goals and objectives they want to achieve. This roadmap is used to track progress on a regular basis to ensure activities are aligned towards goals and objectives e.g. long-term profitability. FSPs with existing business plans have the benefit of using existing operational information as input and a guide for planning.
Consider the following questions:
- Do you have an up-to-date and documented business plan for 2022?
- How regularly do you take the time to track progress and make necessary adjustments?
In this newsletter, we discuss why it is important to have a business plan, provide tips on some elements to include in a business plan and, show research that highlights how profit margins may increase when implementing key business strategies e.g. business planning and segmentation.
Having a documented business plan in place means you are serious about your business – you take time to reflect on your business, your objectives, and the actions required to support client and employee retention, business growth, profitability, and long-term sustainability. It is a commitment to yourself, your family, employees, clients, product providers, and other third-party operators. It shows that you are committed to spending time on your business in order to obtain long-term sustainability.
During November 2021 we asked 1589 FSPs the following question: “Do you have a documented business plan that is up-to-date?”. 84% of the respondents have a business plan in place. This provides a wonderful opportunity for Key Individuals to either review and adapt their current business plan for 2022, and those FSPs who do not yet have a business plan in place could use this opportunity to put one in place.
Why would a Key Individual invest time to review or create a business plan?
- A business plan establishes strategic objectives, paints the big picture, and sets out key indicators which are milestones that need to be met by certain dates. An example of a strategic objective is business growth through opening a new branch office. An example of a key indicator is to grow income by 15%. This indicator would be backed up with details such as where the growth is planned (it could be from the new branch office), does the FSP already have clients in the area in which the new office is located, can business growth be generated from referrals, and/or recruitment of a new advisor. Taking this further, the expected increase in income would then be broken down into the types or sources of income streams for example assets under advice, risk cover, health or short-term insurance solutions.
- Another reason for a business plan is to reposition your business so that you can deal with changing conditions, for example your sales are not on track or your operational efficiencies could be improved. These changes or positions provide the opportunity to rethink and rewrite your business plan so that you can identify new ideas and strategies. The pandemic is a perfect example where sales might not have been on track due to initial reluctance from clients to meet – in this regard many FSPs started using MS Teams or Zoom for their client meetings even though it felt strange speaking to clients ‘on screen’ and making it difficult to read the client’s body language. Although it took time to adjust, most people have done so and, in the process, have discovered the benefits and savings which come with online interactions. A survey conducted by ViewSonic which consisted of a sample of 4,700 users, identified that the top benefits of video conferencing were (1) increased efficiency and productivity at 94%, (2) increased impact of discussion at 88%, (3) expedited decision-making at 87%, and (4) reduced travel at 87% which results in saving of travel and client entertainment costs.
- Another purpose of a business plan is to measure or judge the success of your business. A formal business plan creates the opportunity to compare operational results versus what you put into the business plan. You are then able to track the extent to which you have met your goals.
Masthead offers an informative Business Planning webinar that will help you take stock of your business’ current position and help you develop a road map to follow to ensure the success and growth of your business. Find out more about this webinar.
According to Business Health statistics, businesses with a fully documented 12-month business plan experienced a +245% profit increase per principal where that business plan meets certain requirements: the business plan is (1) documented, (2) includes a strategic and operational plan, (3) is reviewed at least six monthly and (4) has a monthly progress plan that monitors at least 15 items.
In a previous article we looked at processes that demonstrate that the advice provided to clients suits their specific situation, their needs and objectives. We also looked at examples of processes that demonstrate that your business disclosed the correct information to the client to make an informed decision. If you missed the article, read it here.
Business planning, therefore, is not just a ‘once off’ action. It speaks directly to the ongoing review of the business plan and business operations, both of which are critical aspects to ensure the business adapts to external changes, and as a result, remains relevant and profitable.
Tips on elements to include in a business plan e.g., Strategic objectives and key indicators
These are broad and clearly defined statements of end goals which a business aspires to achieve within a specific long-term period. Strategic objectives take both long-term strategy and goals into consideration. These could be identifying the types of products and services offered based on the FSPs’ FAIS licence and product categories approved for. These categories are the basis of the advice solutions offered to clients. Other considerations are financials such as incomes, expenses, profit margins. The company size e.g. what size you want to grow your business and geographical scope and business location for instance local, national and/or overseas, marketing initiatives focussed on identified target markets and how clients have changed attitudes and behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic (referred to as behavioural finance) and distinctive elements of your operations (e.g. adoption of technology) in order to capitalise on efficiencies as mentioned in the ViewSonic research earlier in the article. Asset retention strategies, protect existing assets from loss when wealth is transferred upon the death of your client to children.
Tracking of key financial indicators allows the FSP to gauge performance in the business. Examples of some common ones are financial management for example upfront and ongoing commission and fees per product/services line per client, expenses, profit margin, new client growth, client segmentation, retention, and lapses. Measuring these will enable you to ensure the business stays on track toward its goals.
Masthead offers a Financial Management webinar to ensure you have the right financial management tools in place for the financial health of your business. Find out more about this webinar. Find out more about this webinar.
According to Business Health Profit Drivers Australia, businesses that have implemented client segmentation experience based on a formal segmentation model, and have offered differentiated services, and in addition, have reviewed this process annually, have shown an increase of 41% in profit per principal. Business planning speaks directly to the ongoing review of the business model, which includes client segmentation and differentiated services, and is a critical aspect to ensure that the business adapts to external changes. If it does this, it is likely to continue to remain relevant.
Non-measurable key indicators
Improve your client experience by better understanding how their views and needs have changed during the pandemic, and as a result, how their behaviour has changed. Taking time to do this will enhance the relationship and support the fact that advisors are acting in their clients’ best interest and are adapting with their client’s changing needs.
When spending time planning your roadmap for 2022, consider your goals and objectives and complete an exercise where you analyse the business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). A SWOT analysis is a technique for assessing these four aspects of your business and is a tool that can help you analyse what your business does best right now and what needs to be changed or improved. It also helps you to identify opportunities and assists you in dealing with threats. Ultimately it provides the Key Individual with a process to follow to put together a successful strategy and position the business for 2022 and beyond by adapting to ongoing changing times.
To tap into your business’ strengths, learn how to use the opportunities within the market place to grow your business, minimise the impact of weaknesses and threats to your business, read more about our Business Planning webinar.
A well-written and regularly measured and reviewed business plan is an important tool because it gives FSPs the ability to document their goals and share these with employees in order to ensure everyone in the business works toward the same goals. In addition, it enables you to regularly track progress throughout the year. Engaging with a business plan in such a way ensures the business adapts where required and stays on track with its goals.