Why Succession Planning is Important to Me

By: Jane Gow
Clear Cut Financial Planning

As Financial Planners we spend our days discussing our clients’ objectives, their goals and dig deep to find out what drives them to make their decisions. We often start this process way before retirement. It would be hypocritical not to do it for ourselves.

Clear Cut Financial Planning is eight years old. We have built a team of 15 soon to be 18. We are based near Chester and we look after 310 families. Our average family has c£630,000 of wealth. I am 54!

As the founder and sole business owner it is important that, if I don’t turn up for work on a Monday, the team can carry on regardless! It is also crucial I work on my own retirement and succession plan. I too have goals and objectives I want to achieve.

My 10-year exit strategy

I’m a couple of years into my 10-year exit strategy now and this is where I’m up to.

I’ve taken on a graduate each year for the last eight years. They are truly brilliant and completely get Financial Planning (more than I did in my 20’s).

In the first couple of years, we support them through their Diploma and show them the ropes. Then the fun starts. I’ve always encouraged them to play to their strengths, they are all different and bring different things to our team. Our business wouldn’t be great if we were all the same. We celebrate our differences. I also encourage them to be the best they can be. To go out of their comfort zone, challenge themselves and we try to enjoy ourselves along the way.

Our values are:
  • Creating an enjoyable & balanced place to work
  • Unified approach
  • Being passionate and engaged
  • Encouraging, understanding and respecting each other
  • Striving for excellence

That’s the groundwork done. Now I can build on their strengths and the success the business has enjoyed until now. I’ll be honest, I got a bit stuck here.

This was in 2019 when I met Brett Davidson of FP Advance at a PFS POWER Workshop in London. I think Brett mentioned I was in what Seth Godin desribes as ‘The Dip’ and Brett sent me the book: The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick).

So, what’s the plan?

The hardest thing for me as a sole business owner is having no one to bounce ideas around with. In some ways I am lucky as I have met many financial planning friends and fellow professionals along the way and shared best practices. There are so many super generous Financial Planners out there who are happy to share ideas and help problem solve.

At the time I met Brett, I was starting to think that I should try to stop any further business growth. I think I called it at the time ‘put a lid on it’. Work was taking over my life and my first Grandchild was about to be born, I was questioning did I want to continue working 50 / 60 hours a week with no end in sight.

I joined Brett’s Uncover Your Business Potential Programme in 2020 and told him I didn’t want to grow the business anymore. I wanted to control it, and my life, better and my life! The course inspired me to really dig deep into my business goals and personal aspirations and I realised I didn’t want to put a ‘lid on it’. From here I started to engage with my team in a completely different way.

Next Gen Shadow Board

With the truly talented team that had started as graduates I created a ‘Next Gen Shadow Board’. There are five Next Gens currently on the board, and they are helping to shape the future of Clear Cut, we have created a 10-year, 3-year and 1-year business plan. I’m working hard on trying not to be a control freak and to make myself redundant throughout the process.

We follow a weekly Level 10 meeting approach and have quarterly business meeting when we set our rocks for the next quarter. With the Next Gen Shadow Board’s assistance we are getting things done and its not just on my desk any more. In fact, they have ideas I’ve never even considered.

We have created a 10-year vision of our business

We have created our future vision with the help of Dominika Sieradzka of RIE Solutions. The team are very excited about the future opportunities our 10-year vision created and I believe everyone can see their future place in the structure and my place has gone!

I have quarterly meetings with the whole team where we discuss the ‘State of the Nation’ and I share all the business stats. Everyone then feels part of the process and understands the part they play in making it all happen. I’ve stopped feeling like a sole business owner and part of the team that help solve the problems and carve out the future.

Our blueprint includes a plan of client distribution

Every client has a team – Senior Financial Planner, Associate Financial Planner (Next Gen) and Paraplanner.

Our Senior Financial Planners have a 5-year exit plan, our Associate Financial Planners have a 5-year plan to take over the strategic advice for the client. Some clients will be passed over in one-year others will take a full five years before the Senior Financial Planner exits the relationship and fully retires.

With the help of Adam Owen NextGen Planners, we completed training on 2 Chair meetings.

During the 2 Chair meetings Associate Financial Planners:

  • Build up their knowledge, experience, and relationship in the room with the client
  • Take all the meeting notes and action next steps.
We reviewed ‘client fit’

This ensures the right clients are looked after by the right adviser in the future. We segmented our clients into entrepreneurs, accumulators, deccumulators, property, next generation, women clients, and trust clients.

This year we appointed a Practice Manager

I’m not sure why I didn’t appoint a Practice Manager sooner. As a business owner you worry about cost but even though some of these steps feel like huge leaps quite quickly it becomes the norm. I look at what Jemma does and wonder how I ever had time to do this all.

Jemma is a great implementer and now I don’t have 10 half finished projects on my desk anymore (although I’ve probably a dozen ideas that haven’t landed on her desk yet).

We are building team of ambitious Paraplanners

We have a technical paraplanner role. After 2 years of graduates joining us and completing their training and Diploma we discuss their areas of interest and strengths. We have a paraplanner specialising in trusts and another in pensions. At the moment every team member is wearing a couple of hats but as the team grows, they reduce their hats to become specialists similar to other professionals.

Our vision over the next few years includes a Head of Technical Advice and Head of Investment

I can already see some of graduates developing into these roles, the team are working hard and enjoying the challenges. Alongside this we have fun and celebrate individual and team successes.

In August we arranged a team afternoon to Go Ape and had a zip wire competition.

Everyone is working on the Clear Cut plan and their own individual plan and it is working. We have still got some way to go (another eight years) but that’s part of the plan.

We have our eye on the next generation of clients

We encourage intergenerational planning by inviting clients to bring their children to meetings. We also offer appointments with one of our Next Gen advisers to introduce them to Financial Planning. This ensures our long-term sustainability. It allows the Next Gen advisers to build relationships with the children who will ultimately inherit the unspent wealth of our existing clients.

I am lucky to have an enthusiastic, bright and ambitious team that welcome challenges. We are proud that Darren Pike won the PFS Mortgage & Protection Adviser of the Year in 2019 and Charlotte Jamieson has been shortlisted for ‘PFS Paraplanner of the Year 2021’.

We all know things can change as they do in our clients lives

Therefore, it is important that whilst I feel the succession plan is in place, that we continue to grow the business and recruit the right people to ensure the foundations to the succession plan will remain in place until that time comes.

I could sell to a larger firm but that’s not the legacy I want to leave

Selling out would feel like I am selling my sole (and my children!). I want to provide security and peace of mind not only to the Clear Cut team but also to our clients and their families.

Having dedicated my working life to the Financial Planning profession and to growing our business, it’s only fair that in return it can allow me to enjoy retirement. Now I feel I can do this leaving a very capable team in place when I am gone!

Further resources:

You can source some of Brett Davidson’s POWER content by scrolling down his page here

You can source some of Dominika Sieradzka’s POWER content by scrolling down on her page here

Read more about Clear Cut’s Darren Pike here:

https://pfspower.org/articles/i-used-to-dream-about-being-a-farmer-how-did-i-discover-financial-planning/


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