In the business of financial services and insurance sales, getting bigger does not necessarily mean becoming more successful.
In fact, while so much attention has focused on adding services and employees, some advisors and agents have found that staying small and serving a loyal clientele is a much more satisfying path for them.
As technology has improved, many of these business owners have learned to leverage tools that were once only available to much bigger firms, allowing them to focus on what they do well without adding additional staff (and the personnel nightmares they can bring).
Instead of focusing on growing a small practice into a large firm, there is much to be said for a small firm that can stay small, but act big. This process is not for everyone; it requires the owner to stay disciplined and focused on the customer, not on the pursuit of growth for its own sake.
Here are five ways you can use this approach for “smart growth” that don’t require you to become a mega-practice:
- Strategic plan: Let’s start with the obvious first step, but the one I believe can be the hardest to implement: developing a strategic plan. This isn’t the technical plan or series of tactics for your business that often are the types of plans many business owners create. A strategic plan is the long-term strategy for what you want your business to be that includes your core strengths, target audience, value proposition and your goals. As the basis for everything you do, you use the strategic plan to derive the tactics and day-to-day activities that will drive your practice.
- Develop your budget: It can be easy to run your business, paycheck to paycheck, without any real understanding of where your costs come from as well as what the strongest sources of revenue are for your business. In addition to paying yourself and your team, what are your operational costs? What is the marketing budget that can solidify your client base and find more opportunities with them? As a point of reference, a 10% marketing budget is industry standard. At the very least, the exercise of developing your budget will help you understand the basic expenses you have and allow you to formulate a plan to keep you out of the red each month and keep your business on track.
- Embrace technology: While the financial and insurance industry has historically lagged behind other industries in implementing technology, there are a lot of new products small practices can use that were once only available to larger organizations. These include database management tools to manage clients that come with incredible tracking capabilities. Through the use of third-party software, email has gone from just another communication medium to become a strong marketing tool. Emails are set up in campaigns that use robust tracking and reporting features to help you and keep informed the ones you have. And, all of these tools can be accessed through applications on desktops or mobile devices that can make you amazingly efficient.
- Develop your ideal daily schedule and keep to it: As a business owner of a small company, sometimes you have to be the sales person, administrative assistant, tech support, cleaning crew and more. Developing a schedule that outlines all the tasks you need to accomplish can help you prioritize them and be sure you are most productive at the right times of the day. Keeping to a schedule won’t put out all the fires you have to attend to each day, but it can keep you on task during prime sales times.
- Tracking your results: In the end, this can be the most important element of a plan to work smarter in serving your clients. Your strategic plan should include trackable goals like your budget and other metrics such as emails opened, sales contacts made, reviews held and other elements you can use to hold yourself and your practice accountable. Tracking and measuring results frequently will help you identify what is working and what isn’t, a process that can give you focus and allow you to eliminate those tactics that are not working and move on to those that are.
- Bonus item: Make a “stop doing” list. You often hear of “to-do” lists. However, there may be many things you are doing that are time wasters, like designing a brochure or making your own appointments. Those things can be outsourced to others more skilled or less skilled than you are. You’ll free up time and stress when you stop doing the things that aren’t your core competency.