Operations have a brand issue
As many of our loyal listeners know, one of my favorite topics to cover each month on our COO Roundtable podcast is the sadly common view in our industry that “ops are boring”. Or, even more damagingly, “Operations are just an expense line on our income statement – it’s the salespeople who drive the real value here.” In an effort to elevate the tone of this conversation and enlighten those with this tunnel vision, I have explored this topic several times in this post (see: Operational Excellence Drives Sales Growth and The Path to the RIA property on the operations track).
Jason Mirabella from Wealthsource Partners had a strong reaction on the podcast to my question about the potential conflict between sales and operations – he replied: “I do think operations have a branding issue in our industry. The term “operations” in general confuses “strategic operations” and building a service model with performing basic tasks like paperwork; which I think led us to believe that operations should play a subordinate role to sales and relationship management. In our most recent episode, Jennifer Wagoner Kirksey shared a similar sentiment when she said, “I’ve always hated the term ‘back office'” because, as Jason alluded to, ‘back office’ perpetuates more the idea that sales consist of the activities and operations of the “front office” are not as important for the customer relationship because its activities take place in the shadow of the organization.
Operations was thrust into the spotlight in March 2020 when each RIA was forced to reinvent the way they support their clients in a remote environment. The fact that our industry has experienced record growth for two consecutive years during an extremely volatile period is a true testament to the value that operations bring to our organizations. RIAs have continued to evolve their service models and delivery as the world adjusts to our “new normal” in the wake of the pandemic. The question for all operations professionals is: how do we maintain our momentum and avoid being pushed into the shadows?
Trevor Phillipi of 6 Meridian said, “It’s really up to operations leaders to set expectations for how their team is going to add value to the business, to advisors and ultimately to our clients. . My belief is that those who work in operations should view our firm’s advisors as our clients. It’s certainly not “us versus them”, it’s far from it, in fact. We are constantly looking to prove our value to advisors, as they must do for their clients every day.
With the growth that most companies have experienced over the past two years, many RIAs are looking to their operations teams to continue progress in the years to come. Tom Preston of Brighton Jones emphasized in our conversation with him: “Everything that we bring every day in the areas of finance, technology, our ability to recruit new candidates internally, the ability to train internally, the ability to provide our teams with support across all lines of business – these are all strategic advantages, delivered by operations, that help us grow faster. Jennifer Wagoner Kirksey commented, “Operations are really integral to growing any business. We assess which processes are cumbersome, manual or inefficient and try to tackle them head-on. She then added, “We’re here to get the organization where it needs to go, so I feel really supported in my role and I think my business really understands the importance of needing a strong infrastructure. to perform at such a high level.”
While I continue to fight this “ops are boring” idea whenever I get the chance, others think this mentality will just go away by natural selection. Tom Preston said: “I find myself shaking my head every time you mention this feeling that other companies have, just because I think it misses out on so much growth potential in the business. .” He added: “Frankly the feeling I have is happiness because if some of these people are competitors then I probably don’t have to worry as much if the attitude of these companies is that the operations can’t really move the needle.”
Jason Mirabella concluded our conversation on this topic by saying, “As competition increases and the sophistication of running these companies increases, I would say that if you say things like ‘operations are boring’ and ‘salespeople are the most important here”. ‘, you’re probably falling behind right now. And if you’re still saying these things 5 or 10 years from now, you’re probably not growing, laid off, or completely bankrupt. I think we just have to wait. I tell other partners on our team that “Sales gives you the opportunity to have business, but operations East deals.’ I think the industry is getting closer to it, slowly but surely.
In the interest of the continued growth of our industry, let’s hope Jason is right!
Matt Sonnen is founder and CEO of PFI Advisorsas well as the creator of the digital consulting platform, The COO Company, which teaches RIA owners and operations professionals how to build more impactful and profitable businesses. He is also the host of the popular COO Roundtable Podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @mattsonn_pfi