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Solo to scale: a financial planners journey to building a business.

Do you want to go from a 'high-paying job' to the owner of a successful firm?

A common challenge for Financial Planners is having their working time directly tied to the business's revenue. This can lead to employees behaving as additional personnel, causing the owner to miss out on the opportunity to leverage the team's expertise and foster independent growth.

 

At Slipstream Group, we coach a range of Accounting and Financial Planning clients. The three main categories of clients we service are:

  • Capable solo's (sole business owners)
  • Happy couples (partnerships)
  • Functioning multi's' (firms with multiple owners)

The following case study explores the journey of a Slipstream client in the "capable solo" category. It details their transformation from running a business that was essentially a high-income job to establishing a sustainable and successful business. For the purpose of this case study, we will refer to the firm as Sydney Financial Planning.

 

Balancing Challenges and Opportunities

 Upon engaging Slipstream in November 2020, Sydney Financial Planning was already a highly profitable business with an EBITDA of over 40% and a consistent annual growth rate of over 15%. Despite these impressive figures, the owner still recognised the value of coaching and sought out Slipstream's services. The business owner was aware of their ability to grow the client base and manage a small team but acknowledged certain leadership deficiencies that required improvement.

 

At Slipstream, our purpose is to help our clients make tough decisions to take their businesses to the next level.

 

As coach Michael Spinks explains:

"Most firms, over time, can grow to around $1M in fees. Many of the firms we coach get stuck around the $1M turnover level, as it takes a lot of work to push through to the next bracket (around $2.5M). Equally, to go from $2.5M to the next bracket of $5M requires a different mindset and business model."

 

Challenges

Challenge #1: Dependency

The owner of Sydney Financial Planning not only served as the primary Financial Adviser, but was also deeply involved in the day-to-day operations. Recognising the need for a resolution, he aimed to build a team that would allow him to shift his focus purely to providing advice.


Challenge #2: Lack of systems/processes

The owner was great at attracting new business but acknowledged he needed to establish appropriate systems and processes to efficiently serve the clients and maintain the quality of advice.


Challenge #3: Capacity hindering growth

As the sole adviser at Sydney Financial Planning, the owner realised he had reached his capacity limit. To facilitate business growth, he needed to either recruit or develop additional financial planning capacity.

 

Challenge #4: clients paying low fees

Whilst Sydney Financial Planning was profitable, the owner encountered a challenge with a high volume of clients paying low average fees. It is common for firms to make the mistake of pricing their services to the lowest common denominator. The business successfully onboarded new clients, but the sheer volume of clients had a negative impact on service standards, profitability, and job satisfaction.

 

EXECUTED PROJECTS

Year 1: Navigating the Path to Success

The first year of coaching focused on establishing a solid foundation for success. To begin this process, the business owner created a one-page business plan.

 

With a well-defined vision for the next three years and a 90-day action plan to get the ball rolling, Sydney Financial Planning successfully completed several business projects that resolved some key issues. While coaching played a crucial role in providing guidance, the sense of accountability it instilled proved most valuable in ensuring the plan was executed.

 

One of the key accomplishments in the first year was the mentorship of an adviser within the business. The owner recognised the potential in this staff member and dedicated time to mentor them until they completed their studies and became fully qualified. This investment in the staff member's development not only helped them grow but also contributed to the team's overall strength.

In that same year, it was decided to increase fees for new clients to align with market rates. It's worth noting that this decision was separate from the fee structure adjustment that would affect existing clients the following year.

 

Year 2: Expanding Horizons and Strengthening the Team

In the second year, the client undertook the project of developing a clear organisational chart. The owner identified their strengths in business development, working with ideal clients, and mentoring the team, leading to the allocation of all other roles to other team members.

“An effective team will always produce higher than expected results if they are clear on their roles, play in their 'lanes' and work together.” – Michael Spinks, Business Coach

 

A Practice Manager was also brought on board to oversee daily operations, manage HR duties, and ensure the smooth running of the business.

 

Additionally, $200k worth of work was moved to the new adviser, freeing up the owner's time to focus on other areas of the business. Moreover, Project UpliftTM was introduced, which offered existing clients a new fee structure.

More money, fewer clients.

Download the Project Uplift™ case studies.

Year 3: Preparing for Growth and Ensuring Sustainability

As Sydney Financial Planning enters its third year of coaching, the owner's goal is to continue rolling out Project UpliftTM and transition 40% of the client base to the new fee structure by the end of 2023. Additionally, he aims to shift $500K worth of fees from his workload to the adviser, freeing up his time to focus on building capacity for growth.


This year, the business owner's primary focus is to establish systems and processes that will enable Sydney Financial Planning to scale seamlessly to a $5M business. To ensure the team's workload is sustainable, the owner is investing in delivery tools to enhance efficiency and improve client outcomes. These initiatives will poise the business for sustained growth and continued success in the years to come.


The client understands the value of maximising their existing systems. A common mistake we see with clients is they jump to conclusions about which software will solve their problems when in reality, all applications have their faults and limitations.


The owner has maintained a focus on the basics of their practice, by utilising the best available tools and maximising the potential of each system.

 

Furthermore, the business allocates resources to quarterly half-day off-site meetings to enhance their processes, be it the introduction of a new process or refining existing ones. All team members then implement the changes without exception. This practice is vital for any business as it establishes a consistent approach to operations, ensuring the firm's operating rhythm is synchronised.

Overview of the Project Implemented

2020/21

2021/22

20202/23 (budget)

  • Business Plan launch
  • Mentor ‘advisor in waiting’
  • Marketing Plan launch
  • New pricing structure for new clients
  • Practice manager onboarded
  • Organisational chart rollout
  • Project UpliftTM phase #1 rolled out
  • New office
  • $200k of fees transitioned to new adviser
  • Project UpliftTM phase #2 rolled out
  • Develop capacity to grow
  • Investment in process delivery
  • Marketing and branding
  • $500k of fees transitioned to adviser

Complimentary business review.

Slipstream has limited capacity available for solo Financial Planning firms in 2023.

Apply for your free 90-minute business review.

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Over two days of hands-on coaching with our expert team, you’ll walk away with an airtight business plan that will guide and motivate you to achieve more than you thought possible in your business and personal life.

Melbourne: 30 - 31 May

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