How To Change Your Business

Tracey Underwood - FP Advance

As many people know, I’ve worked closely with Tracey Underwood over a number of years. We originally met on a job where I was brought in as a consultant; Tracey was working there as Operations Director. I was really impressed with the work she did at that firm under trying conditions.

When she started her own consulting firm Pace Solutions, she was always in demand and, from time to time, we worked together on a range of consulting jobs. Recently Tracey accepted a full time role as Managing Director with one of her clients.

Because of her strong background in effecting change, I wanted her to share her focus in her first 100 days on the job. Her responses provide a great insight for anyone looking to effect change in their own business.


Tell me how you became involved in your current role?

The CEO was frustrated managing his day-to-day client work together with trying to move the business onto the next level. Although we had made significant improvements to the business over the previous 5 years that I had been working with them on consultancy basis, we didn’t feel that we were going to achieve the longer term business goals quickly enough. We spent a significant amount of time discussing how best we could achieve the outcomes for the business and concluded that the best decision was for me to take over the MD role. I could concentrate on the implementation of the business strategy, with the CEO focusing on other key mandates around client delivery, and other key areas central to the functionality of the business such as the Investment committee and developing DFM proposition.

I began by putting together a business plan and presented this to the board. They made me an offer and I accepted. I felt it was a good fit all round.

I’ve learnt that business plans don’t need to be sizeable documents.

I break it down into high level objectives with bite-sized, achievable, time-led goals that work towards the overall business objectives. Our business plan not only includes FUM targets, but specifically; new money, staffing requirements, IT, client type, core values and (importantly) succession planning. Having a business plan really gives you, the team and the business a focus and for me, it’s a great sense of achievement when the goals are being achieved.


So what do the goals look like?

Our four key goals are:

1. Team

No business can succeed without the right people in place. Get the right people in the right roles and the business can accelerate to the next level quicker than working with a team that perhaps, don’t buy into the company’s values. I’ve come to realise over the years, that the journey the business needs to take to achieve its objectives isn’t right for everyone. Change is difficult and not everyone can cope with it. However, if you’re driving the change don’t take this personally. The bottom line is that either the team buys into the changes, or they’re not the right people for the business. It might not seem like it at the time, but when team members decide to leave, it’s usually in the best interests of both parties.

Our business plan is very specific about where we need to get to and what people we need to have in the business. Having recruited extensively over the years in my previous roles, I’ve developed a structured recruitment process, which I follow religiously.

Our recruitment drive actually started a couple of years ago when we took on our first intern, who in late 2014 became our first graduate recruit.

It’s important to me to bring new people into the industry that carry no bad habits and buy into the culture of the firm.

Our graduate was recruited as our investment analyst to implement our processes and procedures required for our discretionary management service. We now have an ongoing recruitment drive with a local university to acquire our next graduate.

Since then we have recruited a Head of Technical (who is Chartered and a Fellow) to support the CEO and manage the paraplanning team. She will then undertake her CFP qualification later this year.

These key appointments, although being made within an already sizeable existing team, are having a really positive impact, allowing the CEO and myself to keep delegating more and more to a skilled team of people.

2. Outsourcing

Other work we’ve undertaken includes outsourcing HR, Accounts, and Compliance so that we can concentrate on what we’re good at. I’m a firm believer in paying the right people to do the right job.

3. Technology

Technology is key to developing our business proposition. The IT infrastructure and CRM needs to be future-proof and meet the needs of our clients. Our current CRM is cumbersome and inefficient. So we’ve reviewed the CRM and are looking to change to a better system, which will lead to a range of efficiencies to enhance our client experience.

The driver in all of our thinking is: “How do we make things better for our clients?”
And by extension: “How do we give our people the tools they need to make this happen on a day to day basis?”

4. Rebrand

A change of office location and rebrand is also underway. It’s important to look as good as we think we are. We also want to become more involved in our local community and have started this by supporting a small local charity. 2016 is our 40th anniversary, at which point we plan to hold a client event at our new offices promoting our new community role.


I know it’s early days, but is it working?

The changes have already had some impact. The CEO is now able to concentrate on core areas of the business that need developing, whilst I have been able to manage strategy and the progress of change.

This has already resulted in the business building new relationships with a number of new clients, each with sizeable assets (over £1M). To date we are ahead of our business objective with regards to new money and FUM. The new CRM is due to be implemented in Q3 2015, branding in Q3 2015 with the office move due to take place at the end of 2015.

The new additions to the team have also been positive and the existing team has clearer objectives with a reward structure that is clearly aligned to these objectives.

There is still a lot to do, but we are very much on the journey to achieving our long term business goals.


Either the team buys into the changes or they’re not right for the business. [click to tweet]

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