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Should I renew my office lease?
You and your staff may want to continue working from home once the pandemic is over — which could have major implications for how you structure your practice
will employ, you can use this process to answer not only the question of real estate, but others of equal or greater importance.
require licensing) or in direct collabora- tion with others. Ask what:
l● Must be done on-site
l● Can be done better on-site
l● Can be done equally well either on- or off-site
l● Can be better done off-site (e.g., cheaper, faster, with fewer errors)
Note that with competition for quali- fied staff intensifying, some advisors we know have been able to access broader geographical pools of talent by offering a work-from-home option. (See story on page 13.)
Begin by identifying five or six major tasks that underpin your operation. These might include:
l● Client service
l● Marketing and new business development
l● New client onboarding and account opening
l● Financial, investment and insurance planning
l● Portfolio management
l● Client review process
l● Customer relationship management
software and database management
Prioritize these tasks according to your estimation of their importance and impact on the success of your business.
Create workflow descriptions and dia- grams that track the required steps, people and resources required for the smooth functioning of your business. Questions to ask for each task are:
l● How often does this task have to be performed?
l● What is the desired outcome?
l● What specific activities, and in what
order, have to be completed to achieve
the desired outcome?
l● What resources are required (e.g., time,
number of people, systems, technology)?
Detailing the workflow often reveals
inefficiencies such as people who don’t need to be involved and superfluous steps.
Fortunately, my team and I have adapted our prac- tice quite well to the con- ditions created by the pandemic. Forced to
a nice office for the advisor (with size and location dependent on their status in the firm) and nearby cubicles for their staff in a large open area of an entire floor in a downtown skyscraper. The firm provides a reception area, several meeting rooms, kitchen, technology centre and more.
Between these extremes are all kinds of configurations. Regardless, how should you evaluate your requirements, assum- ing that remote work and technology will reduce the need for physical space?
If you have a compact practice, you may see little need to alter your working environment, despite some team mem- bers continuing to work remotely part- time. In fact, you may welcome a little extra breathing room, even if you main- tain space for remote workers who occa- sionally need to be in the office. In smaller practices, support staff tend to perform many duties, so working entirely from home may not be practical.
At the other extreme — a practice with a large support team — staff members’ work tends to be more specialized and routine. Should these people have to endure the daily commute, the office tower elevator dance and a frenzied working environment when they can do the same job just as effect- ively (if not more so) from an environment they create for themselves to better balance their personal and professional lives?
A survey published in June from New York-based McKinsey & Co. found that 80% of people working from home said they enjoy it, 41% reported they were more productive and 28% reported they were as productive as they would have been in the office.
I am not forecasting the cataclysmic “end of the office.” While many people enjoy working from home, others do not — or cannot due to the nature of their jobs. “Zoom fatigue” is real, as is “fear of missing out” on spontaneous team conversations, professional development and social inter- actions. Some people may welcome work- ing from home as a temporary change, but do not want it to be their only option for the rest of their career.
Regardless of your practice’s size, no formula can take into account all factors to determine your space requirements. However, we have been encouraging our clients to use this opportunity to reimagine their entire business in the “next normal,” taking into account what they have learned over recent months along with what they want their business to look like in the com- ing years. In simple terms, we’re telling people to ask themselves: “If we didn’t exist today, how would we invent ourselves?”
To some extent, this is a vision exer- cise; however, since vision drives strategy and strategy determines the tactics you
work from home, we enhanced our tech- nology, created new processes and main- tained communications with our clients and among ourselves.
Considering our success with these modifications, I believe the “new normal” for our practice will incorporate many of the changes we made, even when the world reopens. For example, some team members will want to continue to work — part-time, at least — from home; many clients have told us they prefer the conven- ience of video over in-person meetings.
Now I am faced with several decisions, including previous no-brainers such as “Should I renew the lease on my office space?” I normally wouldn’t hesitate to say yes, but I am not convinced I will need as much physical room if some of us work remotely, even part-time. What are your thoughts?
Outline the required workflow for each major task
Now that you know what needs to be done — where and by whom — you can evalu- ate existing resources to determine their sufficiency for the job. Among things to think about are:
l● Staffing level, qualifications and capacity
l● Systems, technology and security l● Physical space and amenities
The perfect set of factors is unlikely to be present for every major task, so a hybrid model may work. For example, you could require remote workers to be physically present in the office every second Monday. Staff may work together physically during brainstorming ses- sions while leaving practical imple- mentation to a remote worker. Periodic opportunities for social interaction among all staff can help team members to bond.
Without question, the Covid-19 pandemic sum- marily changed how financial advisors do business in ways that
even the most diligently crafted business continuity plans did not contemplate. I agree with you that adaptive approaches to getting the job done will endure long past the availability of a virus-defeating vaccine. That said, I believe we have only scratched the surface of further evolution in how financial advice is delivered.
Let’s use your office lease renewal as a case in point. You haven’t given me much information regarding the size of your team compared with your current office space, so let me use some of our clients’ situations as examples.
At one end of the spectrum, we work with advisors who have built great practi- ces with one or two support staff. They may operate from the same location in which they began and, in many such instances, the physical space is already crowded, as the practice has grown from a solo advisor, to one advisor plus one assistant to one advisor and two assistants, and so on.
Many practices of this size co-exist with others similar to their own within a branch office of a regional or national dealer firm, meaning they may have access to shared amenities. Even so, I have never heard any- one who operates from a branch complain they had too much space.
At the other extreme, we work with advisors associated with national broker- age firms who employ teams of six to eight support staff. Their spaces often include
Reimagine your business for the new normal
“Coach’s Forum” is a place in which you
can ask your questions, tell your stories or
give your opinions on any aspect of practice management. For each column, George selects the most interesting and relevant comments from readers and offers his advice. Our objective is to build a community of people with a common interest in making their financial advisory practices as effective as possible.
Identify resources, both required and available
Decide which tasks must be done to effectively run your business
Determine where, and by whom, the task must be performed
Some tasks can be performed by only qualified people (e.g., because they
Although we have used your lease renewal decision as an example, this approach of self-assessment and refinement can work for any major task in your prac- tice. Use this unanticipated opportunity to review, refine, reinvent and reinvig- orate your business. As you do so, you will create a better experience for your clients, yourself and your team while improving productivity and potentially reducing costs. IE
George Hartman is CEO of Market Logics Inc. in Toronto. Send questions and com- ments regarding this column to george@ George’s practice- management videos can be viewed on

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