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The goal of every RIA operations professional is to add efficiency and scalability to their organization. Said differently, we want to find a way to serve more and more clients without our level of service dropping. The 201st largest client of the firm should feel equally as loved as the 101st. To achieve this, it is imperative the firm has clear and well-documented processes in place. This is where an operations manual becomes invaluable. By capturing and organizing essential procedures and guidelines, an operations manual serves as a reliable resource for employees, ensuring the 201st client is receiving the same onboarding experience the 101st client did, regardless of which employee at the firm executes the process.

Without a document detailing, “This is how we do things here,” new employees are forced to learn by trial and error and guess how to best execute standard processes. Even an employee with several years of industry experience doesn’t know how your firm conducts business, or the nuances of your specific tech stack and vendors. Newly onboarded staff members can efficiently review the operations manual to familiarize themselves with your expectations and the proper procedures for completing their assignments. This approach ensures minimal disruption to their colleagues and drastically decreases the onboarding process, not to mention reduces the chance of errors.

While you wouldn’t necessarily want an employee executing a trade or processing a wire transfer on their first day on the job, your operations manual should be written in such a way— with screen shots and step-by-step instructions—that a brand new 23-year-old could successfully complete such tasks with minimal training from other employees. This is where scale comes from. The operations manual can be a continual resource that employees consult when they have a question or need something explained … without taking time of other employees.

Don’t think of the operations manual as a three-ring binder sitting on a shelf gathering dust. It should be a digital document that resides in your firm’s document management system or company intranet, broken into sections containing contact information for the subject matter expert for each section, should the reader have further questions. Begin by identifying the most common key processes that directly impact clients and continue to add processes from there. Once the processes are identified, analyze them to identify bottlenecks, inefficiencies or areas for improvement and continue to refine the documented processes accordingly. This should be a living document that is updated on a regular basis.

You can then take things to the next level by leveraging CRM platforms to transform these documented processes into automated workflows and tasks. By integrating the operations manual with CRM workflows, firms can further ensure the documented processes are followed consistently and seamlessly. Like the operations manual, CRM workflows automate repetitive tasks, reduce manual effort and therefore minimize errors. This allows employees to focus on more value-added activities, increasing overall efficiency and productivity.

Keep in mind that every single step detailed in the operations manual will not be transferred into tasks within a CRM workflow. Think of the steps within the CRM workflow as milestones within the process that are detailed in the operations manual. Tasks within the CRM milestones can link to the more detailed screenshots and step-by-step instructions from the manual.

When Kristen Schmidt of RIA Oasis addressed our members of the COO Society, she advised them to look at all steps listed in the manual and then determine which are “workflow worthy,” meaning identifying the steps in the process with a unique user responsible for executing them.  Beyond the operations manual, the CRM workflows provide real-time data and analytics, offering valuable insights into client behavior, preferences and pain points. By integrating documented processes with CRM workflows, firms can leverage this data to make informed decisions and identify trends.

It is shocking how many RIAs have not taken the time to build these systems.  Documented processes within an operations manual are the backbone for efficiency and consistent client experience.  Without them, scale will continue to be elusive for RIAs.  The integration of documented processes with CRM workflows empowers organizations to streamline operations, enhance customer satisfaction and drive sustainable growth. Embrace the power of documented processes and leverage CRM technology to unlock the full potential of your organization.

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