The Process of Creating Great Processes


As a coach, there are many key practice management elements that I love to take a deep dive into with my coaching members. One of them is creating processes.

It’s not always the most fun and exciting exercise, but the impact is compounding. There are so many great benefits from having systematized processes.

Continuity. Having a process manual serves as part of your continuity plan. It is a tool you can use to hire and train more effectively, and a backup plan in case unplanned events impact you or the team.

Growth. Having clear processes opens the door to growth. You can easily scale processes in the business, delegate effectively to people or technology and be well prepared for growth by M&A.

Efficiency. If you give two people the same task, it’s very likely that they may end up with a similar result, but the route to get there may be very different. Having processes can ensure that not only are the results consistent, but the way they are accomplished is the most effective use of your team members’ time.

Consistent experience. Providing clients with outstanding service and experience may be something you strive to do, but without process, you likely aren’t doing it in a proactive way. There’s a huge difference between answering a phone and helping someone versus creating a communication plan that allows you to address the client’s needs.

Confidence. “Confidence and better sleep” is probably more like it. As a business owner, when you have confidence that both the client experience and operational processes of the business are functioning well, you’re able to find a sense of comfort. That confidence and comfort might be exactly what you need to step away from the business a little more to do the things on your bucket list – or simply to sleep through the night without waking up to a frantic “did we do this?” thought.

Read more: Utilizing Assessments to Build the Right Culture and Team

Tips to get started:

Tip 1: Determine what you want to systematize and prioritize.

You can kick this off a few ways. I generally recommend that you have a wish list of processes you want to develop – sometimes, after working on process development for something like client onboarding, you might need to follow that up with processes that are a bit more simple, like client birthdays.

If a wishlist feels too big or daunting, then ask your team to come to the next team meeting with 1-3 processes that are most important in their work. This will give you a nice place to start, and also give you a headstart on the next tip.

Tip 2: Get buy-in from the team on creating the processes.

In my last role, I remember talking to an advisor about getting pushback from a team member on creating processes. It turned out that the person had concern for their role and thought that processes made it easier for them to be “replaced.” This is why framing the conversation to the team using the benefits I listed above is so important.

To help encourage engagement, find a way to celebrate and track process completion. Some advisors who have started from scratch have even made the creation of a process manual part of the team’s incentive compensation plan, either in the form of an additional bonus or as one of the performance expectations in the existing compensation structure.

Regardless of how you do this, make sure the team understands the vision and the benefits.

Read more: The Business Wisdom of Developing Advisor Career Paths

Tip 3: Create champions.

  • Depending on the size of your team, this may look a little different, which may simply mean that your scope of work is smaller and the process is a bit longer.
  • If you know who the most process-oriented person in the office is, this is a great project for them to champion and manage. If you don’t, now is a good time to find out!
  • Have a lead champion who is in charge of the overall project and keeping the team accountable to their goals.
  • Have a subject matter expert (SME) take on processes for their respective areas of the business.

Tip 4: Create the plan. 

  • Prioritize the processes and determine an overall scope for the project.
  • Schedule out the processes and any meetings or dedicated work time for the team members who are creating and reviewing the process.
  • Determine storage. Identify an easily accessible place where you can store the processes. While some of the processes will be created in workflows – or simply be links to other systems – it’s important that the document or software used is able to be accessed and edited by more than one person at a time. I would also highly recommend regularly backing up this resource. 
  • Do not store the processes on paper or in notebooks. I repeat: Do not store the processes on paper or in notebooks. I had an advisor tell me that their assistant had all the process documents – which were kept in their notebook – shredded upon their departure because they did not need the notebook anymore. I was speechless. I thought he was joking, but it was true!
  • Execute. You can have the best strategy in the world, but you have nothing without execution. Develop a way to stick to the plan and adapt as needed.

Tip 5: Have regular reviews.

  • This is not one-and-done. This is an ongoing initiative. If you created a process manual five years ago, you no longer have a process manual – you have documentation of how we used to do things around here. Be sure to create an annual process to review and update the processes, in addition to having the team update as needed.

The process of creating great processes isn’t easy, but these tips can make it more achievable. If you’re having trouble creating your processes, your coach can help you. If you don’t have a coach, that’s actually the first step in creating great processes.

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