In the first of a series of columns for PA, Richard Allum lists his five essential building blocks for a successful outsourcing relationship and says over-communication is rarely a bad thing...
Late last year we published a series of guides to help financial advice businesses decide if outsourcing is right for them, pick the right partner and make the outsourcing relationship work. This applies to any outsourcing relationship, not just paraplanning.
There are five steps we take to ensure our relationships get off to the best possible start and then continue to work for both our clients and us.
1. Baseline their business processes and ways of working
Before you work with a new partner, make sure you understand how your business works. If you don't already have a clear map of the business and your processes - that you can easily share and discuss with your partner - then develop one. As you're working out how you integrate your service with theirs, this map will avoid ambiguity, ensure nothing is missed and speed up the time it takes for them to reap the benefits of outsourcing.
2. Be open
Your partner may work with more than one client. They may have interesting experiences that they've built up from working with many different firms. This perspective is valuable for you so be open to the advice they offer and the suggestions they make. Foster an environment open to feedback - it works both ways. Their feedback will help you and your feedback will help them.
Make sure you have agreed channels and routines in place for regular communication. Stick to these and then do even more. You'll rarely over-communicate. So, check your understanding, make sure everyone is on the same page, clear up any areas you're not sure of.
Don't let things fester - raise issues quickly and positively so they can be resolved. Encourage your clients to do the same.
Formalise a regular review with your partner. Use this as an opportunity to take a step back and evaluate the overall health of the relationship. Prepare for the meeting by gathering feedback from those closely involved, day-to-day. Use this preparation at the meeting to identify any common themes and agree priorities for improvement.
5. Set clear expectations
Make sure you have a set of jointly agreed objectives. If it's early days, set some objectives connected to the beginning of the relationship - whether that's team introductions, set up of new processes or service levels for the first few months as you work out how to work together. Further on, set objectives based on priorities you establish in your reviews. Track these objectives; making sure everyone is clear on what's expected and continue to review progress.
While many of these steps seem simple, I've learnt from (sometimes difficult) experience that you won't regret taking them.
Richard Allum is managing director of outsourced paraplanning practice The Paraplanners
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