So you have decided you want to prepare for the future, and you have thought about what advisory services might mean for your firm. After all, adding in higher yield services such as coaching, makes it much easier to grow a million pound firm. Perhaps you’ve started to define them. But how will you change things in your firm, it's probably going to involve restructuring your firm. This is a bigger change than you might think and big change projects need careful planning, management and implementation. This article looks at what you may need to think about when it comes to restructuring your firm so can sustainably and profitably scale its advisory services offering.
Why do my processes and back office need to change?
To become a truly advisory led firm means that the bulk of your (and other) fee earning time is going to be spent advising, rather than producing or discussing accounts. Doesn’t sound too bad so far?
- Resource centre: You will need a resource in your firm to create the information that you will help your clients get insights from. Does that capability exist at the moment?
- Existing compliance work: You will need somebody else to do a lot of the compliance work you do now. Can your firm’s structure deal with that? You might choose to start outsourcing some of the basic compliance work, but that's about restructuring your firm too.
- Being reactive: Your firm is likely to become more reactive to client requests, as that’s part of the advice scenario. Are all your team capable of dealing with such requests at the moment, or are you going to continue being the process bottleneck in your firm?
- Team change: Your team are likely to start to change focus, whether that’s by embracing cloud, becoming more flexible (dealing with differing requests, speeds and not on such a predictable annual timetable).
- New capabilities and competences. For each team member that changes the focus in their role, somebody else is likely to change their role to pick up the old work. This is going to involve your whole team.
- Project management: Managing the processes, varying client timelines, different dataflows in conjunction with any MTD changes gets complicated. Fortunately practice management software can help you mange what’s going on. But that in itself means….changing the way you all work.
- Data integrity: With more clients doing parts of their bookkeeping or processing themselves, your role becomes more one of data integrity management. Is your team geared up for that switch from old style accounting?
Even if you discount some of these bullet points, each of these changes is about you changing the way things work in your firm.
Restructuring your firm - getting change to work.
Many years ago I was involved in change management, off shoring data processing and replacing processes across the whole of a £15bn turnover company. Three key lessons I learned then, still are relevant today:
- Changing the way people work is essential
- People don’t like changing the way they work
- Communication of the vision and the change is critical
Sharing the vision
You’ve probably been reluctantly thinking about how your firm works for some time now. I suspect that initially you didn’t want to, or hoped it would go away. That’s only natural. Over time, you saw the need for change and have started to embrace it.
The problem is your team need time and help to see and embrace the need for change too. You probably hated the idea of restructuring your firm when you first thought about it, so do your team.
Working with them on, helping them see why things have to change, how they will benefit from the change and their place in the vision of your firm is important.
Change management skills
- Understanding what is really going on in your firm is a good starting place. Some form of structure analysis and process mapping will help you get a grip on what’s there now.
- Understand what your team members can do is a good addition to your “organigram”
- Understand your stakeholders and the key influencers in your firm. Who is involved, and who has the biggest opportunity to derail, or assist you?
- Create a structure and processes for your future state (how you think the firm needs to be in three years’ time). Now you can create a transition plan, see what people need to learn, how they need to develop and help them to embrace that change.
Who are your main stakeholders?
It maybe that you and your team are the main players in your firm. But as part of your change plan think about any other major stakeholders you may have, who are the most influential ones with power/ influence? Successfully restructuring your firm is a lot easier if they're onboard, discuss a compelling vision of their future.
Whatever steps you take, this is major transition and may take longer than you expect. Consider the major stepping stones and how you will cross each, give yourself time, and monitor your progress.