Friday, September 23, 2011
How You Prevent Your Team from Being Productive (and what to do about it)
If you’re the founder and CEO of an investment advisory firm that has expanded from a one-person shop to a business staffed by multi-professionals, you may well be your firm’s own worst enemy.
And recognizing that possibility can be the key to increased productivity.
So says T. Taylor Payne, CPA/PFS, CFP® and President and Investment Manager of Payne Wealth Partners, Inc. in Evansville, Indiana. In Payne’s opinion, “The most unproductive member of the team is usually the founder because he can’t keep his hands off, and everybody else is reluctant to call him on his unproductive habits.”
Payne, whose office manages $300 million in assets for some 215 households, came to this conclusion at the beginning of his 22nd year in the business.
“I recognized that the answer to increasing productivity is delegation, so at the beginning of the year, we changed from a silo practice to a more holistic model where everyone on the staff gets to work with all the clients,” Payne explains. Older practitioners—he turned 58 a few weeks ago—who grew up in the silo environment “need to understand the importance of this and to change!” he adds.
The firm’s three major client areas are small business owners, corporate executives and divorcees or surviving spouses (see 101 Tasks to Tackle in the Aftermath of Death) —usually but not always female. The Baby Boomers are aging, Payne points out, and perhaps in part because they led such good lives, he finds the men tend to die at earlier ages, making surviving spouse a category of its own.
Payne Wealth Partners currently comprises nine employees, six of whom are professionals and five of them, CFPs. The Planning side of the business consists of two professionals and a para-professional; the Investment side of three CFPs. While the director of investments heads all decisions, for reasons of availability, the investments themselves may be executed by any of the firm’s other qualified investment professionals. Payne Wealth Partners also has staffers who handle business development and client services.
The new business model, Payne explains, revolves around having the most appropriate person doing the work and encouraging callouts so that when one staff member sees another taking on an inappropriate task, they don’t hesitate to say so. “In this respect,” Payne asserts, “the chief is always the worst offender!
As an example, Payne cites a recent phone conversation with a client that was overheard by the colleague sitting next to him. Payne was explaining how a fixed annuity would create an income stream for the client’s wife, and said he would call the annuity company for figures. Payne’s co-worker pointed out that someone else could better handle what was bound to be a back-and-forth dialogue, “and that I could be making better use of my time. When you started out as a solo practitioner, it’s hard to break the habit of trying to do everything yourself,” Payne notes.
If you’re wondering how the firm president’s conversation could be overheard, the reason relates to another innovation Payne introduced four years ago. After expanding three times—and seeing how a local real estate firm was set up—Payne decided to create an open office.
“It felt weird to us at first,” he admits. “It was a huge change. But now we love working that way.” At first, having your own office feels like a perk, but after a while, it may make you feel isolated. “What we found is that we had been so separated from each other that we were getting physically and mentally too far apart from each other.”
The bonus is that the firm’s physical layout contributes to the callouts he finds so necessary to successful delegation of responsibilities.