If you’re looking to grow your practice, don’t start with a shiny new brochure. The first step in growing your business should be to ensure that it is organized from within, according to Sara Gilbert, founder of Strategist in Montreal.

In fact, Gilbert says, working on a brand without a business structure is a waste of time and money. The majority of financial advisors will say they want new clients, but they don’t have the structure and efficiency to support a larger client base, she adds.

Gilbert offers the following five steps to preparing for and stimulating business growth:

1. Decide how you want to grow
Gilbert’s first question to her advisor clients is, “What exactly do you want to do in order to grow?”

There are three options:

  • adding new clients to the practice;
  • offering new services to existing clients;
  • developing a more efficient business.

You will be unable to work on all three areas at once. So, pick your top priority. If your practice could use some help on the organizational front, the choice might already be made for you.

2. Consider your business model
Are you an advisor who works using a fee-only, a transactional or an asset-based revenue model? The type of compensation structure you use will affect the type of structural improvements you can make to your business.

“If it’s fully transactional,” Gilbert says, “it’s hard to build it as a business because [your business is] solely depending on you, the number of phone calls you make and trades that you do.” So, if your income depends on transactional revenue, there may be a heavier emphasis on increasing the number of clients.

On the other hand, a fee-based advisor might benefit by focusing on increasing the number of services offered.

3. Document your processes
You should have established methods for tasks such as prospecting, onboarding new clients and conducting portfolio reviews.

Having these processes in writing means you’re not re-inventing the wheel every time you have to perform a certain task, Gilbert says, and that will save you resources and time. Ultimately, it will help support any future growth.

4. Look for organic growth opportunities
A close look at your existing client base may reveal that you can grow from within. Some existing clients might have assets elsewhere that you can target, or you can offer additional services, such as insurance and estate planning.

Strategies such as these will generate extra revenue, Gilbert says, and offer the bonus of increasing client loyalty and making you more referable.

5. Communicate your progress
Any improvements made to your practice must be made evident to your clients and your centres of influence (COIs). This is another way to stimulate referrals.

Clients will experience your more organized business through your consistent processes. For example, they will know when to expect your newsletter and what you will be discussing in an upcoming appointment thanks to your reminder phone call or email.

You can also demonstrate your improved service to COIs by inviting them to meetings with clients you share (as long as you get those clients’ permission beforehand).

COIs will appreciate knowing about improvements to your practice because they want to be sure their clients will be treated well.