Steve talks to:

Paul Crawford, MD of Norwich-based Crawford Consulting

paul_crawford

SB: Casting your mind way back, what was happening in your business that made you consider engaging us?

PC: Fundamentally, the aftermath of depolarisation and the probability of charging fees, and the early news about the Retail Distribution Review. Two challenges paramount in our thinking at that time.

SB: Did you have a plan?

PC: No, we were still getting out of the initial ‘all hands to the pump’ stage really. Just getting business from whatever source.

SB: So what were the specific problems that you were facing?

PC: We were being asked to implement a menu of charges, which I simply didn’t believe in. We tried it out with a couple of clients because we felt that that’s what we had to do. Their eyes glazed over. We knew then that fees way was the only and right way.

SB: So what next?

PC: We needed to have a structure and a service proposition, which communicated our value

SB: So why did you choose us?

PC: We attended a full day session put on by the IFP at great expense. This helped us see the value of what we did and gave us a pretty comprehensive book with financial health checks, draft letters and a grid system for categorising clients. Sorted.

SB: So was that a challenge?

PC: Knowledge is one thing, implementation entirely another. It was at the implementation rocks where we ran aground and we recognised this within three or four months. We didn’t have the time to keep revisiting it. Also, what we thought was a good client, actually wasn’t.

SB: So what were you looking for?

PC: Initially, to try and identify those clients that offered Crawford Consulting its future: to put numbers together to identify a sustainable business model: one that would allow us to take our foot off the writing new business pedal. We also needed a convincing 20-30 second explanation for clients that would make what we were doing obvious.

SB: Winding the clock forward to today, what have you achieved?

PC: We have sufficient clients paying us an ongoing fee to be comfortable. Now we want to attract enough new clients to expand to our true potential. You have helped identify the clients to whom we can offer the best proposition for the right fee.

SB: How do you feel about the business now?

PC: I think I’ve got a fantastic business. More importantly to me, the people I work with think it’s a fantastic business. The most important things you have brought to me are independent thinking and accountability.

SB: How valuable has that external accountability been to you?

PC: Having an independent person outside the business with the sole objective of improving the value of the business has been both invaluable and essential. I don’t question the cost. You have provided order and taken our minds away from the many possible distractions.

SB: And how important is having a clear plan for you now?

PC: The plan has been and is everything.

 

Kevin Ferriby, MD & Founder of Yorkshire-based Informed Financial Planning

Kevin Ferriby Informed Financial Planning
SB: What was it that drew you to us?

KF: I didn’t know where we were going. We did have a plan of sorts but mostly around the financials and a history of not necessarily delivering on those. I didn’t feel in control, everyone was doing their own thing, some performing, some not performing and those performers becoming completely disillusioned with the non-performers. RDR was also looming.

SB: How was that making you feel as MD and owner?

KF: My head felt it was about to explode. Stressed like you wouldn’t believe. I was feeling pretty unhappy as I’d worked hard for a long time for the business not to be delivering what I thought it should be for clients and for myself. It may have been working for some employees but I felt as if I had the problems of the world on my shoulders. I was frustrated, stressed and nervous about the future.

SB: What was it about us rather than anyone else?

KF: You had already built a high level of trust in a short period of time. You offered clarity of thinking and sight of the results we might get. You pressed all the right buttons and we knew a lot of what you said we needed but most of all we needed the help you could give us in delivering and sorting the wheat from the chaff.

SB: What were the main things you were looking to achieve?

KF: Consistency of what we were delivering to clients and more importantly the review. Ensuring each adviser delivered in the same way without the need for a battalion of support staff. We needed help with formally getting it down on paper: segmenting our clients, the process and the strategy; and bringing us back into line.

SB: What has had the most significant impact?

KF: Consistency of delivery to clients and being able to articulate clearly what we do. The ability to both articulate and deliver has had a massive impact on the performance of advisers. Now we are all more accountable and the results in terms of new business and referrals are there to be seen.

SB: Has how you feel changed?

KF: Yes. We now have the tracks to run on. We know which direction we are running in and have a route map to get there. It’s made a big difference and we have the confidence month to month that we will be able to perform. I feel in control and I’m also enjoying work more. The previous fire fighting meant my productivity was zero. It had gone through the floor. Now I’m doing what I enjoy doing. Working with top end clients and our professional partnerships and these partnerships are bearing fruit.

SB: Why stay with us, now your plan is in place?

KF: The biggest thing is that you hold me and us accountable. It was every quarter, now it’s every month. You keep us on track. I’d love to say it’s the creativity and new ideas but it is about you helping us do what we say we are going to do and delivering the results. It’s easy to let things slide. Accountability is the most valuable thing.

SB: Can we improve?

KF: As much as I’d like to come up with something, there isn’t anything. No. Although I suppose you could deliver what you deliver for free … but the value we’re getting is more than we pay for it so we are quite happy.