We just recorded a Becoming Referable podcast episode with Steve Sanduski. It was a great conversation and I think you will enjoy listening to it. Steve’s tips included some great questions you can ask clients as you begin your financial planning journey. I realized there may be another use you can make of them as well.
December is my strategic planning month. I take stock of the year about to end and envision the year ahead, set my goals, and make my first quarter plans. Setting those goals can be a challenge. How do you choose? What should you focus on?
There are some parallels between charting your clients’ course and updating your own. Issues you address in your strategic plan bear similarities to the choices and decisions you coach clients through. Why not look for insights using some of the same questions you might ask them? Here are a few of those questions which may be part of your financial planning process and how you might incorporate them into your business planning exercise as you lay out the coming year.
What is your goal? The most obvious question may not be exactly what you ask yourself. You may be tempted to simply project the current trend. But what do you want? Is there a point where you reach an economy of scale that could be an advantage? Is there a threshold that would require a change to the firm (an additional staff member, technology capacity, physical space)? Forget for a moment the current trend. Where do you want to be (or what limit do you not want to exceed)? And what will change about the business if you get there?
Project our relationship a year into the future. Looking back, what would have to happen for you to consider it a success? Envision your business a year from now. What would need to happen for you to look back and consider it a successful year? An amazing year?
What is your most pressing concern right now? In working with clients, this will help you determine which part of the plan to work on first. In strategic planning it may point you to the most important change you can focus on.
What has your attention? I just heard this question on an episode of the Kitces’ Financial Advisor Success podcast and I am starting to use it with clients. It really captured my imagination. And, like your client, it may give you a productive place to consider what needs work in your business.
What is the biggest risk you face right now? The foundation of a financial plan includes risk management. For midcareer clients the answer may be disability. For retired clients, the cost of long-term care. How about your business? Possibilities may include a sharp market decline that produces the income, losing a key staff member, losing a key client, having a significant source of clients dry up. What contingency plans do you have? Better yet, can you guide your business to gradually reduce or eliminate that risk? In The Great Game of Business what Jack Stack actually does (although he focuses on the benefits of employee engagement) is to systematically address and reduce the biggest threat to the company. Eliminate one threat and turn your focus to the next. Maintaining an awareness of significant risks will help you assure your company continues to thrive.
For many business owners, strategic planning is too focused on the numbers. Applying the principles of financial planning, bringing the qualitative into the exercise, can help you create a more meaningful strategic plan.