Innovation never sleeps: What are you doing to move your practice forward?
There are legendary tales about Steve Jobs and his ability to see into the future what consumers needed. iPhones that enable us to talk, text, send videos and take pictures (and dance in TikTok). Apps that allow us infinite ways to enjoy and improve our daily lives. iPads, iPods, iTunes … the list goes on. Jobs was never satisfied with today - he was always looking at tomorrow. It wasn’t just about giving us the products we needed. He built products that were cool to own. Jobs certainly understood what it means to innovate.
Allow me to introduce you to another gentleman who was also ahead of his time and understood the importance of innovation. Though he’s not a household name like Steve Jobs, he was a disrupter, entrepreneur and innovator in his day. If you’re familiar with the construction business - or if you’ve spent any time in south-central Pennsylvania - you may be familiar with John L. Grove. His products revolutionised the construction industry.
Innovation at work
Grove’s first foray into business and innovation began when he joined his brother’s farm equipment company in 1946. Grove Brothers revolutionised the farming business when it created farm wagons with rubber tires that made it much easier for farmers to do their daily work. Demand for these wagons soon outpaced capacity. As the company expanded and became the Grove Manufacturing Company, a client asked if the Grove team had a piece of equipment that could lift and move heavy items. John immediately went to work and created what is commonly known as the crane. Like the wagons, demand for the cranes also exceeded supply.
Internally, differences arose regarding how the company should be run and where resources needed to be spent. John saw the future in cranes while his brother wanted to focus on the traditional farm equipment business. John wasn’t shy about voicing his opinion on how things should be handled or about making changes to products with little input from others. John wanted to focus on creating newer and more innovative products they could sell. After disagreements reached a boiling point, senior management stepped in and decided to focus on cranes as a major part of their business - without John Grove. John was fired by his older brother and voted out of the company. Now in his late 40s, John found himself without a job.
A new beginning
After taking some time off, John was ready to get back to business. In conversations with friends and former customers, the topic often turned to scaffolding. John turned the concerns around scaffolding costs and safety into a piece of equipment that would have a telescopic boom lift with a basket mounted at the top from which workers could work - later known as the aerial work platform product. This new product allowed John to launch JLG Industries. John’s new partners created a structure that would allow him to run the company as he deemed best. JLG quickly became one of the most successful companies in the construction equipment industry.
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Not many people in their lifetimes can say they had three very successful businesses. In John’s case, farm wagons, cranes and aerial lift platforms were all smashing successes.
Financial services advice - now and the future
Hopefully now when you see those lift trucks at work, you have a better understanding of their history. Like Steve Jobs, John Grove was not afraid to test the markets and bring forth products people didn’t know they needed. As you look at your business today, what is it that you need to be doing to move your business into the future?
Here’s a list I’ve cultivated based on hundreds of conversations with financial advisers:
- Create a virtual service model
The quarantine environment has upended the way we work. How do you engage clients when you can’t shake their hand or enjoy a cup of coffee with them? Today’s situation will change, but the result may be different than before. Clients who used to meet in person may now prefer to meet you virtually. Are you optimising your business for this hybrid world? Are you upgrading your own skills and that of your team to embrace virtual technology and arming yourself with the equipment to make it engaging for your clients?
- Engage the millennials
Everyone hears how difficult it is to keep intergenerational wealth in transition. We can do a better job of engaging with the next generation. What’s your plan to tackle the transfer of wealth occurring with your ageing clients? Are you marketing specifically to a younger demographic? Have you and your team engaged the entire family when it comes to family wealth planning?
- True wealth management
It’s not about picking the best stock or mutual fund anymore. Investors are looking for a complete wealth management experience. Do your clients fully understand the complete range of services you can provide to them? Are you able to tie your services to subject matter experts that compliment what you offer? An increasing number of clients want a one-stop-shop for their wealth management needs. Are you able to provide that?
- Personalised client servicing
Different clients require different levels of ongoing client service. For your business to be sustainable and scalable, the way you treat your largest client households must be different than how you treat your smaller client households. Do you have a service structure in place that allows you to operate in that manner?
- Run your business like a CEO
Are you running your business or is it running you? The recent volatility may have shed light into what gaps or weaknesses are apparent in your business. What are your biggest risks? Have you done an assessment of the first quarter to see where you can improve the overall efficiency of your business?
The bottom line
The financial industry may be old, but it doesn’t have to lack innovation.
Any opinion expressed is that of Russell Investments, is not a statement of fact, is subject to change and does not constitute investment advice.