Behind the Business

3rd February 2017

Brett Davidson of FP Advance has been instrumental in transforming the way that we run Fortitude and he recently published his thoughts about working with us.  We wanted to share some of his comments, his full Blog can be found here:

“Fortitude Financial Planning, based in Northants, are a brilliant financial planning business. I use the word ‘business’ rather than ‘firm’ or ‘practice’ quite deliberately. Their approach, and the results they’re achieving, provide a great example to anyone trying to build a business that doesn’t lose its core values as it grows and becomes more successful.

As I’ve written about in my previous Moving Forward series, there are six core areas that businesses must have in good shape if they want to succeed. In fact, if you could be 80% good in each of these areas you’d have a fantastic business too.

Let’s look at what Fortitude do well in each of these areas:

Culture (Values)

Like all the great financial planning businesses I know, culture and values are at the heart of the Fortitude story. They are very clear that clients come first, and they are also passionate believers in the Financial Planning approach.

It’s important to create a business culture by design; to know your core values and live by them. Culture shouldn’t get tacked on as an afterthought, it should be the core of who you are as a business.

This is true at Fortitude. Their core values are:

  • Fairness
  • Fortitude
  • Trustworthy
  • Kaizen (constant business improvement)
  • Caring

In fact they have these core values on a feature wall that all staff and clients can see when they enter the office. That’s a commitment to your values, and their strong culture is a key part of their success.

People

Fortitude have built a very strong team in all areas. The front office and back office work together well.

Recently they took on a new adviser to build depth and succession. Because they know who they are (Culture and Values) they were able to articulate this clearly in the recruitment and interviewing phase. Richard, the new adviser, took his time to evaluate the move before leaving his previous place of employment (as he should). In turn the Fortitude management team took their time in evaluating him for a values fit before making their offer. It was a considered two-way process.

The result? He’s working out brilliantly and recently wrote about his financial planning epiphany in a Fortitude blog, Last Week I Changed A Client’s Life.

The strong business values made the evaluation and hiring process a lot smoother. A lot of firms have had bad experiences hiring new advisers, and often it stems right back to a lack of clarity around their own values.

Process

Although they are providing high-end, bespoke financial planning solutions for clients, the Fortitude team understand the value of strong processes. They recognise that strong processes create scalability, build consistency of client experience, and keep costs under control.

There are two aspects to building great processes:

  1. You create great processes by identifying people’s strengths and having them work to those strengths. You collaborate with your team when designing processes.
  2. You create great processes by mapping out ‘what’ (task), ‘who’ (job title), ‘how’ (tools) and ‘when’ (timeframes)

The Fortitude team encourage and remind each other to follow the processes, and highlight examples where doing so, or not doing so, led to a specific outcome.

Business Management

It’s in the business management area that I believe Fortitude have excelled. As part of my consulting work I introduced the business planning process and weekly level 10 meeting process from Traction, by Gino Wickman. They’ve been one of my best adopters. So it’s no surprise, in just over a year together, they’ve also been one of my best performers as clients.

There are four members of the leadership team, Neil and Helen Bailey, Mark White, and Chris Bowmer. Are each of these people different personalities? Yes, they are. And the differences in each of them brings something unique to the business. Do they make their leadership team work effectively? Yes, they do. They function very well as a leadership team because of the processes they’ve all signed up to.

Mark is the full-time business manager, and they are at a size where this is an essential part of the team (about to break through £800k of turnover). Most firms I know leave it far too long to get a professional manager on board.

Financials

Fortitude keep their eye on their three key ratios:

  • Profitability ratios
  • Productivity ratios
  • Client Selection ratios

These are the three key levers you can pull within your business to change performance.

Client Profile

The core focus here for Fortitude is on institutionalising their marketing processes. Building referrals from existing clients and professional introducers are very important to them.

They’ve recently established a client-advisory board to help them understand their business at a deeper level, and to try and work out ways to improve service delivery so that clients will be happy to refer in even greater numbers. Let me be clear, Fortitude already have a strong flow of referrals from existing clients, but they are always eager to learn more about their clients and to do even better in this area.

With the professional introducers, they have a close relationship with one of the leading legal firms in the region, and they work hard to provide outstanding service to them whenever a client is referred. Fortitude are focused and loyal in terms of this relationship. They don’t spread themselves too thin by chasing every professional services firm. They are working hard to build a deeper relationship with one of their key introducers, and it’s yielding dividends for both parties.

Summary

I love what the team at Fortitude are achieving and by focusing closely on these six key areas, they have been able to transform their business performance. Hopefully their story will inspire others to put in the work they need to help their business grow and succeed.”