Judy Reynolds, Opening Gates

Unleashing your business potential

Decide what business you are really in now and unleash the massive opportunity that resides in the gap between intent and reality.

1. What business are you in?

The answers are, as expected, numerous and wide ranging. Responses include – we’re in the business of accounting, helping people be more financially savvy, ensuring our clients meet their statutory obligations, giving people hope and peace of mind or enabling financial freedom. None of these are wrong and often the response comes quickly and easily. The answers are usually published for all to see on websites, marketing collateral and beautifully framed displays in premises.

Write it down – what business are you in – this is what I call your intent.

I contend that both the quandary and the big opportunity for business lies in the gap between the intent and the reality. Too often the reality is far removed from the intent and to make matters even worse there is a tendency to avoid acknowledging this gap. It is as if we are blinded to the reality.

2. What business are you really in?

This is a question that goes to the heart of the reality of business. It is not about intent. It is all about what is actually going on. If you are in the business of enabling financial freedom, for example, then I would see evidence of that in your day-to-day operations, in your language, conversations, in your meeting agendas and your financial results – yes?

Do you walk your talk? Does your talk turn up in your results? Do you demonstrate what you assert?

It is time to turn the sensitivity meters down and swallow the ego for a bit. Until the questions are answered with complete honesty, and without blame or excuses, there is nowhere to go other than to repeat the past. There is no place in this conversation for the gathering of evidence to support a position which does not align with the business you desire and plan to be in.

Write it down – what business are you really in – this is what I call your reality.

3. Get real – examine the gap

Consider this insight from the perspective of compliance and advisory. In my opinion, nothing will change in this space, until you get absolute clarity on your current and intended position in terms of the following three alternatives.

Choose which statement is reflective of your current position:

1. We are an advisory business that does compliance.

2. We are a compliance business that does advisory.

3. We are both a compliance and an advisory business, equally weighted.

Whatever the answer, make sure it represents your current business model. It will be clearly evident both in how you do business and in what you do in your business every day. Draw a continuum from 1 to 10 — 1 being entirely compliance and 10 being entirely advisory. Mark where you currently sit and write reality.

Now choose which statement represents your intention for your business – the future perspective.

Again, whatever the answer, it must represent both where you want to be and what you assert that you do, and it will be evident in how you plan to do business and what you plan to do every day going forward. Mark your position on your continuum as your intent.

4. Why knowing your intent upfront matters

There is immense power in this simple process. It is a graphic representation of the extent of the shift required. Making the assessments in your head is not an option.

I recommend that you have your team and a number of your clients answer these questions to give you another perspective – one that is less biased by the emotional investment you have as an owner and entrepreneur. Their insights will be invaluable.

Let’s continue with the compliance v advisory scenario. Your compliance v advisory intent must be your point of reference in decision-making going forward.

Your intent impacts your:
-Products and services
-Ideal client criteria
-Contracted and employed skills, abilities and experiences
-Team behavioural profiles
-Service delivery
-Choice of COIs and alliances
-Business model
-And much more

Your business plan and growth strategies must also reflect your intent. Your intent establishes the focus for the way you do business and it cannot be negotiable.

If you plan to be an advisory business that does compliance then an advisory focus will exist all year round. How you resource your business will reflect your intent. Advisory will not be put on the back burner until compliance deadlines are met. Client meeting agendas will drive advisory conversations. Your people will be recruited, trained and developed to engage in future-focused, relationship building, proactive conversations rather than transactional, reactive ones.

KPIs will drive the behaviours required to deliver what it is you say you do. Your client engagements will focus on advisory services. Advisory products will be listed before compliance services. Your financial results will reflect your intent – advisory income will overtake compliance fees.

I have used this example of intent to demonstrating how critical and all-pervading knowing what business you are in really is. It impacts every layer of business and it requires aligned and unwavering thinking and focus.

5. The mindset shift is critical to the process

The first shift in this process is a mindset shift. If you are not completely sold on being the business your intent reflects then it is likely that you and your team will, when the going gets tough, default to what has always been done. It is human nature. This means that the gap remains and potentially expands given your market and your operating environment is likely taking quantum leaps in a different direction.

The first sale must be to yourself. You must sell your vision to yourself before you can sell it to anyone else. Have you sold your intent to yourself?

Knowing why you need to transition, knowing how you might do this and with a plan in place, it is time to ask yet another question.

How do you feel about the gap?

Draw another continuum to better illustrate this emotional reaction – 1 (total overwhelm) to 10 (super excited). If you are less than super excited then consider why that might be so. This emotional rating reflects your appetite for the process of bridging the gap. It reflects the energy that you will bring each day, and your commitment to what needs to be done. It is what your team and clients notice in your demeanor and your language – it is contagious. Do not underestimate the impact of going into a process of gap bridging halfheartedly.

This may seem radical, but if, knowing the why and the how, you’re still not emotionally ready to lead a transition in something as all-encompassing as changing the business that you’re in, then you might choose to change your intent. Yes, there will be consequences which must be identified and considered. These consequences, however, must be compared to the impact of going in halfhearted.

6. The bonus

Now here is the bonus. The value of the client parallel in this process is huge. Take this process and apply it to your clients and their businesses. Sit with your clients and workshop the concept of intent and reality. The fact that you have this conversation with your business clients is evidence that you walk your advisory talk. How on earth would you know if your clients are on or off-track if you haven’t done this work together? It is a prerequisite of staying relevant to your clients and bringing real value to the table.

Judy Reynolds, founder and chief executive, Opening Gates

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