Are You a Roadblock for Change?

October 17, 2019

How to get out of your own way and adapt your business for the future

Watch: Are You a Roadblock for Change?

If you visited the Practically Speaking home page this week, you may have seen something new. (Didn’t see it?  Feel free to go there now.  Go ahead, I’ll wait).  I hope you noticed that the graphics are a little sharper, the text a little cleaner and the navigation a little easier.  Yep, we got a makeover, an improvement to the old site -- but it almost didn’t happen, because of roadblocks to making the change.  

Let’s be honest: from the beginning, the biggest roadblock of all was me.  We started Practically Speaking over 8 years ago, and I liked the way the blog looked. I liked the culture we created that focused on personality-driven Roadblock for Changecontent instead of corporate speak. I’m especially proud that we consistently generated twice-weekly content for all those years, written by a host of personalities from within SEI and out. So when the idea for moving the blog from one site to another was raised, I balked.  

As I write this today, I wonder:

  • Do you balk at change, too?
  • Do you “settle” for what is comfortable, instead of weighing the options for improvement?
  • Have you heard yourself say, “This is the way we’ve always done it,” instead of looking for new solutions?

Change (like winter) is coming

For nearly two years, I’ve been talking a lot about change.  The overarching theme in our white paper series is change -- how the business is evolving from an advisor-centric to a more consumer-focused business.  The papers discuss consumers’ demand for increased personalization, transparency and customized advice.  In response to these changing consumers, we ask advisors what they’re doing to meet these new clients in various areas, including:

We’ve also just completed a study and paper alongside the Financial Planning Association, Advisory Firms in 2030: The Innovation Imperative. I’m all about change when talking to advisors, so why did I resist doing something as simple as upgrading our blog?  Do you have trouble making changes, too?

Think about the last time you made a dramatic change or improvement to your business.  Maybe it was a technology upgrade, the addition of systemized workflows in your CRM, the creation and implementation of a detailed marketing plan or a new service or offering to a niche segment of your business.  I bet implementing a big change wasn’t easy, but I’m sure it was worth it.  Heck, even if it turned out to be a failed approach, you likely learned something from the effort and are better for it.

Change isn’t something to fear, it’s to be embraced. We can force it or it can be forced upon us.

In our paper, Advisory Firms in 2030, we make the case that you can look to other businesses for evidence that a rapidly changing consumer is transforming the status quo.  Take e-commerce as an example: Malls are closing and brick-and-mortar stores are shifting the way they do business -- or fading away.  The question that we ask in the paper is, “Are advisors planning for the future, finding ways to differentiate themselves and embracing the change?”  (Hint:  Not so much.)

Practically Speaking 2.0

The change to our blog platform brings new enhancements beyond just improved readability, navigation, analytics and SEO, but there were some tradeoffs.  The old links on Twitter are no longer going to work and  I was also concerned that we weren’t planning on moving over all 8 ½ years of content that we’d created.  I was the roadblock to change but, I didn’t have a plan for moving forward.  (Sound familiar?)

Over the last few months, I took a little listening tour.  When discussing Practically Speaking, I shared with a few readers, some key partners and people much smarter than I am (i.e., my wife) what I perceived were the pros and cons of the change. They all came back with some version of “get over yourself.”  I realized that I was too close to the question and wasn’t looking objectively.

On our new platform, we still have Raef Lee on #FinTech and Allie Carey on client experience, and have added occasional upcoming posts by Jerry Lezynski (marketing), Shannon Gallagher (social media for advisors), J. Womack and Matt Potter (investing) and everybody’s favorite tax expert, Dean Mioli (taxes, trusts and charitable planning).  I am going to curate more content from others, too, so be on the lookout for our new contributor’s page. Overall, the change brings us forward and improves our platform.

What’s holding you back?

Use me as an example of the benefits of change. What do you need to shift?  What are you doing to prepare for the new consumer and their new demands?  What long term planning are you doing?  If you’re having trouble accepting change, try these strategies:

  1. Step away– take yourself out of the business for a minute.  Try to look as objectively as possible.  Are you doing everything you can to prepare your business?  Try to see the problem from a different perspective, for example as a buyer or uninformed prospective buyer.  Will your business and value proposition be attractive to someone 5 or 10 years from now?
  2. Weigh the pros and cons of change – what do you give up and what do you gain?  Again, take the emotion out of “This is what we have always done” to say, “This is what we should be doing” and look at how a change might affect your business today and tomorrow. 
  3. Get key stakeholders’ input – don’t build in a vacuum.  Ask for input from clients, COIs and other influential partners.  Work together to create the appropriate vision.
  4. Look forward – think about (and plan) for where you want to be in the future, not where you are now.  

Telling your clients to save more, spend less and change their habits is easy.   As an impartial outsider, you can clearly see what they need to do to succeed.  It can be harder to see and affect change on yourself and your business.  Accepting that change is needed solves the first problem.  Understanding that the roadblock may be you is the second.  What are you doing to get the roadblock(s) out of the way?

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