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The essence of practice management

22 August 2006 Esm Davies, Celestis, Head of Practice Management

Human nature has taught us to divide our needs into two categories, must have and nice to have. However, by categorising needs in this way, we could miss out on opportunities. Once we achieve a must have goal, the tendency is to move on to the next milestone, postponing the nice to have goals to a future date when we will have surplus funds or more time. Yet, the very goals we reschedule could generate that surplus or create the extra time we need.

We see FAIS compliance as a must have in order to operate. The same applies to fundamental technology. No FSP can function without a computer and a minimum range of applications.

Practice management is a must have
Yet practice management is often deemed a nice to have. For many financial advisers, the need to see clients and ensure an immediate income stream takes precedence over the longer-term planning and other activities involved in practice management. But beware. This short-term approach has inevitable consequences.

Sustainable and profitable business
If you want to grow and develop a sustainable, profitable business, the solution lies in adopting best practices. These are the strategies and processes that have delivered the best results for you (and others like you) in the past, and they will form the core of your practice management programme.

In evaluating a practice management programme, take the following into account:

* Consider your requirements carefully. One size does not fit all when it comes to practice management and you need to ensure that you get what suits your business best.

* Local may be lekker, but make sure you consider global best practices. Accept that, in some matters, overseas practices are ahead of us and that extensive research is needed to identify the most appropriate solutions.

* Look beyond operational issues. We tend to consider day-to-day processes as the essence of practice management. Your programme must also address the long-term strategic issues essential to your business continuity, like business planning, risk management and succession planning.

* Structure an implementation plan. Identify the elements of practice management that will deliver early, tangible results and are relatively easy to implement rather than tie up key personnel initially in complex, time consuming exercises.

* Involve all your personnel. You do not need resistance to change when you can capitalise on the valuable contributions your staff can make.

* Choose your practice management partner carefully. Make sure they can provide you with the information, knowledge and experience you need before committing to a service provider.

* Evaluate the support you can expect. It makes a huge difference to have a consultant who understands your business and provides personal, face-to-face support with examples and templates to work from.

* Integrate where feasible. You can combine aspects of compliance, technology and practice management to enhance your efficiency and profitability.

* Make sure you can measure the value of practice management in your business. It must make a difference at the end of the day.

Practice management can make the must haves easier to attain and create the capacity for you to go after a number of the other nice to haves.

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