The advisory world has been dramatically disrupted since we produced our last analysis in 2017, with major ramifications set to play out over the next few years. A lot has changed, but the need for businesses to chart their way forward is not being met with enough effective planning from principals in the firing line.

The most significant disruptive influences here are largely outside the advisers’ collective scope of influence; Australians will continue to age, new educational qualifications will come into operation, consumers will rightly carry on calling for transparency and value for their fees and technology will continue to advance.

Welcome to the new world order. Financial planners and risk specialists are joined here – to varying degrees – by accountants, mortgage brokers, general insurance brokers and even real estate agents.

The most important issue now facing advisers is not what is happening (for the die is cast) but what should they be doing about it.

Editor’s note: this is the first in a series of columns Business Health founder Terry Bell will write exclusively for Professional Planner, leveraging insights from the consultancy’s Future Ready VIII report on the state of the advice industry which it will release in February.

The high-level answer to this question is easy and well known to all – think about the impact of these influences on you and your business, decide how you intend to respond and take action.

Easy, right? After all, isn’t this what professional advisers do for their clients every day?

Unfortunately, as our latest analysis (based on 200+ Australian practices who have ‘HealthChecked’ their practice over the last two years) shows the planning of many businesses leaves a lot to be desired. According to the analysis just 29 per cent of principals have a three to five-year strategic plan, while only 34 per cent have an operational business plan for the coming 12 months.

At no time over the last ten years have more than four in ten Australian firms (in any 12-month period) actually created a clearly written business plan. For longer term strategic planning (say three to five years ahead) and succession planning, the results are even more dire.

If business owners are to successfully address the challenges they face, this dearth of effective business planning will need to be addressed. Below I’ve compiled ten points that relate to business planning for advisers. The list is by no means exhaustive, but it does contain some crucial elements that principals would do well to heed.

  1. Know where you are today. Unless you are confident of how you’re placed today in terms of prevailing industry trends and influences, practice performance benchmarks and client and staff satisfaction levels, you will run the very real risk of unrealistic goals being set and goals not being met.


  1. Know where you want to go. All business owners must, in the end, sign off on the future direction and goals for the business.


  1. Workshop 1 and 2 to formulate, agree and document your plan. Time frames, measurable goals and the names of those responsible for them must be included in the document. Look to involve an external facilitator to manage this workshop. Make it offsite and includes all key people – staff as well as owners.


  1. For 1 to 3, consider your personal as well as business goals.


  1. Nike nailed this in 1988; just do it.


  1. Appoint an external person – someone you trust and respect – to track your progress and hold you accountable. You want this monthly for the financials and key lead indicators, and quarterly for the higher level/strategic goals.


  1. Communicate progress and celebrate the wins to staff, referral centres and service providers.


  1. Be prepared to make changes if the circumstances require. It’s never set and forget.


  1. Do it all again in 12 months’ time; allocate the time in your diary now.


  1. Maintain perspective – to quote from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland…

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.

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