Make your outsourcing relationship a success

Having been in the business for 18 years or so, we’ve learnt a lot about what makes an outsourced paraplanning relationship work, as well as what can lead to hiccups along the way.

In part 3 of our guide to outsourcing, we thought we’d share our top five tips for building and maintaining a relationship that helps both businesses and teams prosper. And yes, you’ve guessed it, the ‘maintain’ part is just as important as the ‘build’ part.

We’ve asked long-standing clients Aisling and Bryan Knight of Weston Murray & Moore, to join us and share a client perspective on successful outsourcing relationships.

Five ways to successfully embed your outsourced paraplanning relationship

1.  Get to know your own business

Before you work with a new partner and implement a fresh process, you need to invest time in building a clear picture of what you do today. Your business and processes may have evolved over time so you may not have this baseline to build from. That’s no problem, take a bit of time to note down the basic processes your business relies on. Then share this with your partner so they understand what their processes need to interlock with. As you’re working out how you integrate their services, this map of your existing processes will avoid ambiguity, ensure nothing falls between the two sides and speed up the time it takes for you to reap the benefits of outsourcing. This is especially important in helping to establish where responsibilities lie.

The client perspective:The most enlightening outcome from mapping your processes are the gaps that emerge. The gaps that are informally covered by one or a number of people. These are the gaps that only come to light when there are holidays or sickness. Unless you sit down and break the process, you won’t discover how those gaps are being plugged and it will be tougher to identify whether you could work more efficiently.

Finding these gaps is important when working with outsourcers. Internally, people naturally step in to bridge gaps, often without mentioning it or even thinking it. When you’re outsourcing, this may not happen automatically for a number of reasons – the outsourcer isn’t used to the ‘white noise’ of the office, may not be able to easily see the gaps or not have the experience. Identify the gaps so they don’t affect the effectiveness and efficiency of your outsourcing relationship.

As a Planner, a clear process means that, once I’ve had a conversation with the client, the next steps run on smoothly from there. I can concentrate on what I need to do and my contribution and the different tasks in the chain will be completed by those with the right level of experience and knowledge.

2. Be open

It’s likely your chosen partner has done this more than once. 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.

The client perspective: Sharing and trust underpin our business. So when we work with outsourcing partners, an open relationship is important to ensuring we’re able to trust and share with them. They have to be open to feedback from us, and we have to be open to feedback from them, and we all have to trust that that feedback has been shared in order to help us achieve our joint objectives. We trust our paraplanning partners with details on our clients – there can be cases where it takes a couple of conversations with them to agree the best technical route.

When we’re open we start to use the same language and understand each other better – we have better conversations which means better outcomes for the client.

And of course, this collaboration leads to more creative thinking which can result in greater efficiency.

3. Communicate

Make sure you have agreed channels and routines in place for regular communication. Stick to these and then do even more. You’ll never over communicate, only under 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.

Client perspective: Even though your outsourcing partner may not be in the same office, communication needs to be as easy as popping in to chat to someone in a different part of the building. Making sure you’ve got that kind of access is really important when the part of the process you’re outsourcing is integral to what you do. Make sure your day to day channels are clear and well understood.  For us, it’s important to have Richard’s email only so we can use it if something comes in that’s urgent or requires an approach that isn’t part of our standard process.

4. Review

Formalise a regular review with your partner. Use this as an opportunity to take a step back and review the overall health of the relationship. Prepare for the meeting by gathering feedback from those closely involved day to day. Ask them to couch it in terms of what works and what could improve, what they could do and what your outsourcing partner could do. Both parties should bring this preparation to the meeting and then see if there are common themes and agree priorities for improvement.

Client perspective: As directors we step away from our business once a quarter to review the business, consider what’s on the horizon, think about what we’d like improve. Once a year, we travel abroad to look at how similar businesses overseas run. This often reveals interesting ideas that we implement in our business.

We meet formally with our partners at least once a year to share ideas and see where we can further improve.  These conversations also provide a useful external sense check of our plans.

5. Set clear expectations

Before you get too stuck in, agree objectives for a set period of time. If you’re just starting out, 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, make sure everyone is clear on them and ensure you’ve got an idea of what good looks like.

Client perspective: Starting with the company’s culture and systems, it’s essential that everyone is clear on our standards and the way we like to do things. This ranges from the language we use to ensuring we are realistic about timescales. Paying attention to the detail matters to us.

Setting clear expectations and honouring them means that when inevitable issues do occur, you have the capacity and goodwill to manage them.

In getting to know those you’re working with, make sure your values and expectations align. We do this with our clients, as well as our supporting partners.

About the authors

Richard Allum

Managing Director, The Paraplanners

Since setting up The Paraplanners, Richard has concentrated on creating something more than basic paraplanning support. On a day-to-day basis, his technical knowledge and expertise is relied upon by many clients. He has also worked with many advisers, on a consultative basis, to help them to develop their services and has even helped financial planning and advice firms set up and train their own in-house paraplanning team.

Aisling and Bryan Knight

Directors, Weston Murray & Moore

Aisling and Bryan run Weston Murray & Moore, Oxforshire based Financial Planners who help their clients by turning complex questions into clear exciting answers by creating financial plans which let them and their loved ones thrive. The Paraplanners are part of the Weston Murray & Moore team, providing them with outsourced paraplanning services.