Quick-Start Your Proposition 

In 2004, a couple of years after ValidPath started building its IFA Network proposition, we launched a resource called 'JumpStart', a branded set of resources set up individually for each of our Members, combining a mixture of guidance and marketing tools to enable firms to get up and running in the shortest possible time.  We ran a few annual updates, but in the end it was discontinued because the process of creating personalised copies for each firm within our growing membership just made it uneconomic.  And, we began to realise that Members wanted resources that catered for their own design preferences, rather than something which was centrally-mandated.  And that opened up a whole new ballpark of activity that we elected not to devote ourselves to. 

This is not an exercise in nostalgia.  We look back on the JumpStart materials and, even after the passage of the years, they seem appropriate and timely - but probably the reason for this is that the biggest challenge facing new IFA startups is that of simply getting to a point of effective implementation as swiftly as possible.  Most of us, in this profession, are perfectionists.  Left to our own devices (and perhaps without too many commercial pressures), we could spend years tinkering with our proposition, in order to get every last detail right.  And of course, for some of us, there is a huge gulf between the theory we learned whilst pursuing our professional qualifications, and the reality on the ground with a myriad of different clients, and an almost infinite variety of needs to cater for.

ValidPath can help.  Our own 'IFA-In-A-Box' proposition supplies practitioners with the entire infrastructure, ready-made.  Every bit of kit is 'best of breed', and it delivers all the essential functionality that any IFA would need in order to do his or her job properly.  But the reality is that we can give an individual (or a firm) all the relevant components, but putting them together in a coherent way to match the advisers own preferences and their own clients' needs, is still largely down to each individual Member firm.  There is some hard graft to be done, and - if the whole thing is to be a commercial enterprise - that graft needs to be focused, relevant and rapid.

So here's an interesting case-study.  There's a new trouser-maker in Hebden Bridge called HebTroCo.  They started up in 2016, and you can find out all about them on their website, which tells an interesting story.  The link will take you to the relevant page, but the intriguing part of that is the video that narrates the story.  We thought it was so useful, that we're providing easy access here:

To state the obvious, before someone points it out to me:  we don't make trousers.  But we do deliver unique, bespoke solutions to 'fit' our customers.  And we have a process in place which enables us to do that, using certain components, within a certain timescale, and according to certain cost-parameters.  We need a space to operate in, and often we can't do absolutely everthing ourselves, so we need some diversification.  The video rather helpfully outlines Brant and Ed's thought processes as they got things up and running, and the logistical challenges they had to face.  OK, these do not exactly match our own experience and context as IFAs, but if you're not too picky and focus instead on the broader principles, you'll find there's plenty of food for thought - especially if you are in the process of starting up.

And, of course, there are parallels.  Everyone needs trousers to keep them warm and avoid public shame, and everyone needs an effective financial plan to...do much the same.  And most people would say that they'd prefer it if their trousers wore well, and did not fall apart at the drop of a hat - and wouldn't it be great if the aforementioned financial plan was something that was fit for life's bigger picture, rather than a short-termist, knee-jerk response to some immediate need or fad.  If only more financial-planners were like those lads at HebTroCo!

Kevin Moss, 05/04/2017