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Business plans should have flexibility in case objectives change or aren’t met.Steve Vanhorn/Getty Images/iStockphoto

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As the holidays approach, many advisors are finetuning their business plans for the coming year. While writing a business plan is common, some go about it incorrectly by just drafting a document that ultimately ends up on an office shelf gathering dust.

That’s because the document lacks focus or the goals are too cumbersome to manage, says Christian Battistelli, certified financial planner (CFP) with Page & Gomes Financial Partners at Assante Financial Management Ltd. in Markham, Ont.

“You need to reference back to your goals regularly,” he says. “Too often, there isn’t a process for steps on how to achieve those goals.”

Mr. Battistelli’s process starts with spending time out of the office to focus strictly on business matters.

“It’s really easy to get pulled into other things,” he explains. “Being in a different environment just engages different areas in your brain and helps avoid distractions.”

His firm’s business plan is focused on a three-year target, broken out into goals and objectives for the next 12 months with specific measures and action plans spelled out for every quarter. All the information is digestible on just one page.

In 2022, Mr. Battistelli and his business partner bought out a practice from a retiring advisor. This year’s goal was transitioning and getting to know all the new clients.

“We wanted to make sure they knew they were being taken care of,” he says. “We didn’t lose any clients after the senior partner left and we’re really happy about that.”

He also notes that this year was more positive than 2022′s bumpy ride of volatile markets over most asset classes, coupled with increased interest rates and inflation.

Mr. Battistelli and his business partner wrote a new branding and marketing plan, which they hope positions them well for future growth. While in the past, the practice relied on client referrals, going forward he also plans to build deeper relationships with other professionals.

Another focus is ensuring they are using their team effectively.

“So, that’s delegating properly, making sure team members are happy in their roles and getting a much better process in place for regular reviews with our employees and tracking their career paths,” Mr. Battistelli says.

He suggests building flexibility into the plan with quarterly reviews in case objectives change or aren’t met.

“There’s still time to shift things around to make sure the rest of the year is still realistic,” he says.

‘What gets measured gets done’

Sterling Rempel, CFP and wealth and estate planning specialist at Future Values Estate & Financial Planning in Calgary, is all too familiar with the dusty documents on the shelf as he always completed year-end reviews of his business and wrote down future projections. But since joining a business networking group two years ago, he works on a more targeted, strategic plan.

He has a living document that is reviewed every quarter. In the document, he reflects on several metrics including revenue, client retention and satisfaction and new business opportunities. Also included is an overall business vision of why his firm does what it does, its core beliefs and what it hopes to do for clients.

“The plan needs to be measured and monitored because what gets measured gets done,” he says. “I’ve been guilty of not revisiting it frequently enough. A living document helps the team all pull in the same direction and gives us a shared vision.”

For this year, the plan included a major staff transition as his administrative person became an associate advisor. In 2024, Mr. Rempel wants to focus on streamlining his customer relationship management software. Currently, client data are spread across several different platforms, and he hired his son, who specializes in data management, to assist him. Once those data are more centralized, he hopes to improve and enhance client communications and scheduling of meetings and reviews.

For Victor Godinho, CFP, managing partner and principal broker at Toronto-based Kismet Wealth Group Corp., his business plan involves growing his client base by around a dozen a year and increasing his prices to be more aligned with inflation. He focuses on medical professionals and is paid by a subscription model.

Mr. Godinho also aims to put more structure into how the business is run. He found that he wasted time on administrative issues that often happened on the fly.

“There are so many things that happen in the day. But when we reflect on it, was it necessary for me to stop everything to do that one thing? Was it really important?” he asks. “I’d like to stick to a more proper structure.”

His plan includes an end-of-year client satisfaction survey. The information helps him to determine client communications and service, and can also introduce referrals.

“We have warm leads going into January and February,” he says.

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