Risky Business? Not Necessarily….

Being a financial adviser in 2018 has been tough as waves of changes have rippled through the profession, creating frustration and uncertainty.
However, Sue Viskovic from Elixir Consulting believes advisers are not passive players in these events and can regain a sense of stability and direction.
Sue draws on insights gained from talking and working with advisers and provides some tips on staying focused, in control, and on top of the changes.

Congratulations! You’ve (almost) made it to the end of 2018. We thought last year was difficult with the introduction of the LIF, pffft, I think 2018 wins the award for most challenging and unsettling period in advice in the past 30 years!

As I speak to advisers from different businesses all over the country, I’m hearing excited optimism from some, and yet from others, anxiety and uncertainty that is manifesting as stress, ill health, anger, and disillusionment. Many advisers are feeling ‘stuck’, not knowing what their future holds, what their business will look like in the next five years, and whether in fact they’ll still have a business of any value – and this is affecting those who have built businesses over 30 years, to those still in start-up phase.

I ran a session at the AFA conference recently and received great feedback from advisers, so decided to share the tips from that session in this article. I have outlined here, some very pragmatic, clear steps that every adviser can take to get ‘unstuck’; to regain some control, clarity and hope for the future.

You Can’t Control Everything

When faced with such difficult market conditions, the first thing to acknowledge is an undeniable truth – you cannot control all of the decisions that will be made that will impact your business. You can lobby government and submit your consultation contributions, but at the end of the day you cannot change your external environment. There will be decisions made by other people that will affect you, your clients and your business. As a business owner, you’ve always known this – and yet when changes occur that are so significant that they might stop you from doing what you’ve always done, it’s difficult to maintain perspective. Hence, the anxiety and anger levels rise because for a business owner who is used to making decisions about their business and their future, that is infuriating.

So in order to reduce that disillusionment and to once again feel empowered, there is one thing to accept. While you can’t change the external environment, you can change the lens through which you view it. You can’t control decisions made by FASEA or by ASIC, but you can make your own decisions, and that’s how you get your power back. The metamorphosis that the industry is currently undergoing might feel like death by a thousand cuts right now, but it need not. There ARE ways to feel much more in control and much more empowered.  It starts with you taking some action. Any action, no matter how small, will feel better than spinning your wheels and agitating over the negative aspects of what’s going on around you.

Regaining Control

Step One

Start with acknowledging a few things. You cannot change the fact that:

  • the public (and the media) have heard some horrendous incidents of misconduct through the Royal Commission, damaging the collective brands of advice and insurance and already creating some tighter compliance requirements adding to your obligations;
  • there will be new rules that will impact you, brought about by the revelations in the Royal Commission;
  • business valuations have already been impacted. While the multiples on risk trails have held up well relative to ‘traditional financial advice’ revenues, the continuing threats to trail commission may impact risk businesses further. It’s likely that if there’s a mass exodus of experienced advisers, we’ll see the unprecedented occurrence of supply outstripping demand and this might have further impact. While we’re on that note – if that mass exodus does occur it will indeed be a tragically sad loss of incredible experience – and yet, again, you cannot change that fact;
  • you will most likely be required to study to meet the new education standards, but you finally have clarity now on exactly how much you’ll need to do;
  • the LIF regime means upfront insurance commissions will drop by another 10% from January 1, 2019, then further, to 60% a year later;
  • insurers are tightening up their underwriting requirements so that it is increasingly difficult for people to obtain cover.

BUT, you CAN change how you deal with these things – the lens through which you see them and the decisions you make to address them. I’m not downplaying just how difficult the situation is, but the truth is, you always have a choice – and I guarantee that choosing to acknowledge these facts and moving forward in some way feels a lot better than choosing the victim mindset and staying in the ‘lamenting and waiting’ phase.

Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be – Sonia Ricotti

Step Two

Take care of yourself

At risk of stating the obvious, you are not defined by your business, so don’t allow your business to consume you. From a personal perspective do whatever you can for your own mental health – take care of yourself physically (exercise, good nutrition) and mentally –  spend quality time with those you love and schedule in time to do things that bring you joy. Intentionally making time for things and people that make you happy will work wonders to help keep things in perspective.

If you’re finding you’re struggling to adapt to see the current environment as anything other than a personal attack and you can’t find that new lens, reach out to a therapist, someone who is trained to help people with their thoughts and emotional health. If things are really difficult for you, and you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can get confidential support 24 hours a day from Lifeline, or if you’re an AFA member, AFA Care.  You are most definitely not alone.

Secure your own oxygen mask before helping others. – Every flight that ever leaves the ground

Step Three

Ask yourself the big questions

Before you start assessing your options in great detail – go back to the root core of why you do what you do; step away from the noise and drill right back to your VISION for your business and your career. I don’t mean to think about what were your plans…your plans may have been ‘keep working until age x before selling the business’, or ‘cut back to part-time at age x’….but your vision may have been to ‘build a business that protects 1,000 families’, or ‘build a business that delivers outstanding client service, where I can take 6 months off with no impact to our clients or our profits’, perhaps it was simply ‘build an asset worth $x’. You may even find that you’ve already achieved your vision but your plans are changing, or that you’re not there yet, and your passion to reach it has waned.

Ask yourself:

  1. What am I trying to build? (or have I already built what I set out to?)
  2. Why do I do what I do?
  3. Am I still passionate and energised about doing what I do – enough so to achieve my vision?

Get to the root core of these fundamental questions, and you will find it easier to take the next step…

Step Four

Staying or going?

The ultimate question… and one that, when answered, will lift a weight off your shoulders. Both options are equally valid and viable, depending on your current situation.  Decide on your answer, and now you have some direction – you’re taking your power back and moving forward – on your own terms. Granted, within the parameters of the changed environment, but on your own terms nonetheless.

This is where your paths split…

If your choice is to go, consider whether you’re better to make arrangements to capitalise on the current value of your business as it stands now, or if you’d like to do some ‘renovations’ before putting it on the market. Sometimes it’s hard to let go, especially if it’s not at the exact time you’d planned, but sometimes it’s the best move, and having the courage and the honest self-assessment to see that will help you both financially and mentally. Don’t waste time and energy comparing what you would have sold it for two years ago. It is what it is.

If your choice is to sell now, get the ball rolling by speaking with your licensee and/or a business broker you trust. While taking their advice on what to do next, start thinking about what’s next for you personally, be that retirement or a new phase of your career, and throw yourself into planning and implementing this next stage in your life.

If you decide to renovate first before selling, your next step is the same as that if you decide to stay.

Step Five

Analyse your business in its current state

Think strategically about all the issues facing your business at the moment and get really clear on what your business looks like now, in light of these challenges, and identify the priority areas on which you need to work. If you’re wanting to ‘tidy it up’ before selling it, you have no time to waste. If you need to do some study over the coming years, and you’re already struggling to find any spare time – it’s critical that you get your business running more effectively so that you can find more time while generating the profits you need.

Yes, it is actually that simple. Unless you have continually improved your business every year, to take advantage of changes in technology and implemented ‘best practice’ ideas from around the world, I guarantee you that you will be able to find more time, but it requires doing things differently.

Once you’re clear on what areas of your business require some work, you can start determining the strategies you can implement to improve these areas.

Step Six

Write, then action your Business Plan

It’s no secret that advisers are typically bad at documenting an effective business plan, and yet there is undeniable proof that those who do achieve greater profits and business success, and there’s never been a time that this has been more important. Sure, having no business plan has worked for many businesses, when they’ve been able to just continue writing business and servicing their clients the way they have always done. But this way of building a business just won’t cut it in the future.

You need to be efficient, to design and enhance your client experience, to deliver a better value proposition than just ‘risk and super’, to build processes that tick all your compliance boxes, to have an effective pricing model… the list goes on.  None of those things ‘just happen’, you now need to run your business by design, and its important to decide on what actions will be most successful in your business, and get on with it.

If you’re not entirely clear on how to write your business plan – one specific for an advice business – contact me and I can send you some ideas. In a nutshell, I’m not talking about a lengthy tome that ends up gathering dust…. I’m talking about getting tactical with what can you achieve within the next 12 months and capturing that on a single page.

Once your vision is clear, you’ve identified what you need to work on to achieve that vision, get tactical about what you will implement in the coming year to maintain and grow the value of your business. Reflect back on this every month, tweak it as you need to, and check in to see what you achieved at the end of the year – then redesign the plan for the following year.

We are going through a paradigm shift, and it feels tough right now. What is needed for you to move forward is to adopt a CEO – or an entrepreneur’s mindset. The adviser’s mindset alone will not serve you right now – tap into the emotional intelligence and the passion for your clients that makes you a great adviser, but think like a CEO in order to make the right decisions from here.

And do this because society needs great advisers who can successfully navigate the future legislative environment and respond to evolving consumer expectations, to empower people to make great financial decisions to protect their families. After all, isn’t that what your work is all about?

“Change is hard at the beginning, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.” – Robin Sharma

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In Practice Management, Elixir Consulting shares strategies for building better advice businesses.

Sue Viskovic is the founder of national consulting business Elixir Consulting; a popular speaker; a business coach; and author of a number of books and programs designed for advisers.

An award-winning advocate for financial and risk advice and small business, Sue’s most recent achievements include her latest book Worth Paying For, which has become a lifeline for many advisers impacted by the LIF, and the fourth edition of the Adviser Pricing Models Research Report

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