“Man, the book was so much better than the movie!” You’ve heard it before or, if you’re a big reader, you’ve possibly uttered it yourself. I recently read The Martian by Andy Weir, which was also released as a film late in 2015. While I haven’t yet experienced the film version, I have a hard time imagining that some form of qualifying the movie vs. the book won’t at least rattle around in my brain a bit after I do see it. But, I’m confident that, no matter what may be lost in translation from book to film, the theme of determination so prevalent on the page will still shine through on the screen as a stark example worthy of our emulation.
If you’re unfamiliar with The Martian, it tells the story of Mark Watney, an astronaut left for dead on the surface of Mars and his ongoing efforts to keep moving forward and toward rescue. It’s a story about perseverance and planning under incredibly adverse and harsh circumstances that, while acknowledging the odds against success, focuses on nothing but succeeding brilliantly. It’s hugely entertaining and, ultimately, instructive for those in all walks of life, including advisors.
How are you equipping your business and staff members to meet the challenges, old and new, of running a successful advisory practice? It doesn’t matter so much whether we are talking about the DOL fiduciary rule, robo-advisors, transfer of wealth, compliance, security, process management or whatever – what does matter is that you don’t plan to fail by failing to plan. And, because you’re not isolated on a barren wasteland 225 million km from Earth, you don’t have to go all hyper-MacGyver to figure out a way to meet each of the challenges your business will face. You just need to exercise due diligence when choosing the tools you’ll put to use in your day-to-day operations and then learn to use those tools effectively.
I say “tools” because there is no silver bullet technological solution capable of handling all of your business needs. Mark Watney didn’t find a silver bullet solution either – he failed spectacularly on occasion, but he was able to patch together his available resources and know-how in order to [spoiler directly ahead] successfully rendezvous with his rescuers. What you will find in the FinTech space, however, is an increasingly mature industry that allows you, via integration of the core components of your technology, to clearly delineate your processes, effectively service your clients, market smartly to prospects and clients alike, and track and report on all of your business activities. Sure, the new fiduciary rule and whatever else is around the bend may force you to reevaluate how you handle certain aspects of your business, but with a solid technological framework in place you should be able to weather all storms.
Core tech components and integration are key to your ongoing success. The word “integration” has its roots in Latin and means essentially to make into a whole by bringing all parts together. CRM serves well as a foundational system from which everything else can flow within your organization, but it can’t handle all aspects of your business. As your firm grows, other pieces of a working technology suite might include planning, form-filling, aggregation, marketing, portfolio analysis, voice dictation and document storage software. While CRM won’t necessarily perform the functions of these other applications, it is important that your chosen CRM integrate with other applications with wide industry usage. Bear in mind that this means you should be looking for a CRM solution that is tailored specifically to the financial services industry – otherwise, any integration that is available with other industry products will require a level of customization on your part that is likely to nullify any other efficiencies that you might achieve. For proposed integrations to be meaningful, they should help you bring all the parts of your business together.
As but one practical example, let’s consider an Imaging (or Electronic Document Storage) solution that is integrated with your CRM. In addition to the efficiencies in terms of space, back-office and compliance that paperless document storage creates for your office, integrating an Imaging system with your CRM application creates further efficiencies that would be unavailable were Imaging used in a standalone situation. If you need to find a document relating to a client quickly (such as during an unexpected call from the client), your CRM-Imaging integration should allow you to easily retrieve that document from within the client’s CRM record. No digging through file cabinets and no opening up a separate application to search first for the client and then for their documents. Additionally, if you’re using a web-based CRM, multiple users of your CRM across different locations can pull up the same document at the same time if and when that need arises.
As you think through each of your day-to-day processes, you should be able to determine what areas of your business might benefit from the application of a tech solution, or from the application of a tech solution better (and/or better integrated) than the one you’re currently using. You can spend your time worrying or complaining about challenges, regulations, etc., that are largely out of your control, but this isn’t what the most successful advisory firms are doing with their limited and valuable time. The Martian wouldn’t have made much of a story had the protagonist been stranded and just said, “the heck with it, I’m gonna give up and die.” The particular brilliance of its protagonist resides in both his resourcefulness and his willingness to prep thoroughly for each of the projects required to ensure his survival. Successful advisors are honing, they are fine-tuning those processes that work well and exploring ways to replace those that are underperformers. They are preparing as if they are going to succeed brilliantly.