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Top 10 Business Advisor Insights for 2016


Top 10 Business Advisor Insights for 2016


Every year most experienced business advisors start off by asking themselves:

“What are the trends, opportunities and challenges that are going to shape my business and those of my clients during year ahead?”

The thought process that follows is informed by reading articles, talking to peers, listening to the news and meeting with customers. Often this leads to excitement regarding various opportunities but also information over-load followed by confusion over what to implement first and finally procrastination as the day to day workload once again kicks in.

Over the last few years hot topics discussed have include:

  • VUCA business environment
    (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous)
  • Digital disruption
  • Challenger selling
  • Pace of change
  • Social media
  • Value pricing &
  • Leverage

and as always…

  • Profit
  • Growth &
  • People

Some business advisors and leaders take on board the trends in a methodical manner, adapting their strategies continuously based on what fits their vision but most do nothing, with the result being ‘ground hog’ years with minimal change to their businesses. Regardless of what camp you are in, the business environment globally is adapting rapidly and advisors need to be ready to change. Understanding the top 3-4 insights to focus on within your business in order to achieve your growth targets in 2016 will be critical for success.

The purpose of the annual study conducted by Mindshop of its global community is to gather feedback on these emerging business trends, training needs, industry opportunities and challenges for the years ahead. In December 2015 responses were gathered from 128 experienced business leaders and advisors which provided various, informed perspectives on the market. These results then informed the Top 10 insights and respective strategies provided in this study. Some will be common sense for you, some you may be already implementing and others will force you to adapt your thinking.

As you review these Top 10 insights ask yourself:

Where are the 3 biggest gaps in my business?

Ensure these are then addressed using the suggested strategies as you update your plans for 2016.

Listen to James Mason, Mindshop Managing Director explain the top 10 insights below.

Top 10 insights & strategies

  1. Focus on profitable growth
  2. Reshape your business model
  3. Cut through the clutter
  4. Embed tools in daily practises
  5. Take time to sharpen the saw
  6. Boost probability of change success
  7. Understand and guide your customer’s journey
  8. Systemise 80%, humanise 20%
  9. Attract and retain the best team
  10. Have an agile delivery model


1.Focus on profitable growth

Growth is the number one theme for 2016 for advisors but with higher value retainers as their number two challenge it won’t be growth for growth’s sake but rather ensuring growth comes from the right clients at the right rates.

Many say that top line growth is vanity and bottom line growth is sanity. Too often advisors will focus on growth at any cost to their detriment.

Those in professional service firms will have the first right of refusal on opportunities (as clients will come to them first to discuss their numbers) so they need to ensure they are both capable and have the capacity to capitalise on them. Don’t put more business through an incapable system.


Firstly identify your growth targets for the year ahead by mapping your products and services, their average sale value and the amount sold to various target markets.

Create a matrix of these figures (we call it an income matrix) for where you are NOW and WHERE you want to be from a growth perspective at the end of the year.

You will have a number of gaps. As you reflect on those growth gaps, determine which services provide the most profit and make them your area of focus.

2. Reshape your business model

Reshaping business models was identified as the number three biggest challenge for business advisors as digital disruption continues to have an increasing impact and commoditises many traditional service offerings. Having a clear niche is critical for success as generalists struggle for cut through in a cluttered market. Modern advisory business models are flexible enough to provide different intensities of support and have a non-prescriptive delivery methodology to adapt rapidly to the needs of clients.

For professional service firms, the rapid decline in traditional partnership models continues to gather pace with many in larger firms frustrated with their inability to implement change quickly and conflicted by different core values across the partnership. This is triggering many to leave and return to starting up or joining a smaller, boutique, profitable firm.

It’s also now becoming clear the ‘sky is not falling in’ with regard to digital disruption for traditional compliance services at the pace many ‘industry gurus’ first thought.  This has allowed some laggards to further slow their progress and they will continue to offer a commoditised, low cost service offering for the next 5-10 years with a long-tail of customers still buying (enough to see many partners into retirement).

However, those firms choosing to move up the food chain will have to meet the demands of innovative customers and mature, larger businesses by diversifying into advisory services or taking a niche approach in a technical area to survive.

For many independent advisors the world is well and truly flat with global opportunities accelerating pace and customers looking for the best operators globally. They are more than happy to use technology mediums such as go-to-meeting and skype for meetings and collaboration with quality advisors anywhere in the world.


If you want to be in business in the next 5 years you will need to adapt quickly. Ensure you have a clear vision and if in partnership, ensure all partners are aware of and support that vision.

Design your own business model which supports the achievement of the visions of different partners within the firm. Ensure also that the culture and values are in sync across the team.

Develop a advisory offering blend that suits the firm (don’t just follow the rest of the pack). To provide capability and capacity with business advisory services you have four choices:

  1. Build from within by up-skilling your existing people or yourself, but be prepared for it to take some time.
  2. Hire capable people that already have 10-15 years’ experience but ensure they have the ability to sell and convert themselves.
  3. Undertake a joint venture and contract necessary advisory skills as needed from specialist coaches or consultants. Test them with smaller projects first to assess their capability and fit with your business.
  4. A blend of the three above strategies.

3. Cut through the clutter

The number one business challenge for advisors over the next 2-3 years was ‘boosting referrals’.

As traditional marketing channels get more and more clogged with ‘solutions’ and customers become more risk averse (buying more through committees which slows the buying cycle) business advisors will need to find greater cut through via referrals or be much more targeted in their marketing. Just doing a greater volume of social media posts (essentially shouting louder) will not work for sophisticated buyers of non-commoditised service offerings.


Look to demonstrate capability in your marketing through the use of direct demonstrations or tailored videos to customers and referral sources. In a risk averse market seeking authenticity,
this is a powerful way to convey your marketing messages.

To determine messages that will provide cut-through, survey your target market customers to determine the key challenges and opportunities and ensure your marketing messages (and offerings) are aligned.

4. Embed tools in daily practises

In a similar context to agile delivery models, fluency of execution of a wide array of business tools and methodologies is critical to ensure delivery of robust solutions ‘just-in-time’.

In a second research project – the Mindshop business leader survey, the results reveal improving profitability was identified as a key area of focus over the next 12 months. Advisors will support clients achieve these goals by having access to innovative technologies allowing up-skilling in new tools or methodologies, anytime, anywhere.

Both senior and new advisors need to continuously invest heavily in learning new skills. ‘Fluency in business tools’ was identified as the lowest rated ability of advisors in 2016. To drive change in your own business or with customers in a complex market it takes great business and personal skills. Simply providing clients access to key performance indicator dashboards and graphs is not driving change, merely shining a light on the key issues.

It was interesting to note in our recent survey results a doubling of the gap between our most experienced advisors’ fluency scores and those of our newer advisors over the last 12 months highlighting the investment our most senior people are making to continuously improve their skills.


Mindshop advisors should be utilising the Mindshop Online site on their smart phones, tablets or PC daily to access 100’s of tools and training for themselves or with customers anywhere, anytime. Look for daily reasons to be utilising tools and seek to push yourself outside your comfort zone monthly to leverage a different tool for a client solution. Reflect on your overall advisory service offering and look to identify gaps in confidence and capability which you can use to shape your training plan over the coming 12 months.

5. Take time to sharpen the saw

Time management comes up as a burning issue for both business advisors and leaders annually. Each passing year people seem to become more time poor and therefore stop learning the skills required to adapt and improve their time management. A vicious cycle.

Overall the mindset of many business leaders with regard to learning new skills needs to change. Currently many put aside time for learning but at a time when the problems they learn to solve do not exist (meaning they have to re-learn those skills at a later date!) An approach more suited to modern times is to access technology platforms that allow them to access the learning needed within minutes or hours (just-in-time) as problems or opportunities arise. Finding a blend of learning (face-to-face and online) that suits the needs of each individual will be important to ensure cut- through. This blend will be dictated by what has to be learnt, the time-frame, location of participant and learning style of the person.

Better overall time management habits will also be essential to manage the time and energy it takes to drive a successful team. Partners in professional firms cannot guide their teams if they have not got their hands dirty themselves with new skills and technologies.


Adopt a continuous improvement mindset when it comes to learning new skills. Change habits by making time in your diary for continuous improvement. It has to be a priority and not moved.

Mindshop advisors need to ensure they book in their quarterly training workshops into their diaries 12 months in advance to learn new skills and technologies.

6. Boost probability of change success

Don’t have ground hog years. Ensure you are ready for change for the year ahead.

Growth has been top of the list of focuses for advisors for many years (and will continue to be) but many have had ground hog years with minimal growth. A lack of growth can lead to frustration for owners or the team and ultimately results in people leaving the business.


Review the probability of change success model and what needs to be done differently with readiness, capability and beliefs to unlock the probability of successful change.

Boost your probability of Change Success

and then complete the diagnostic tool

Determine the areas where you have the biggest gap with regard to change success and develop 2-3 strategies to improve your score.

7. Understand and guide your customer’s journey

The number two training need for 2016 for business advisors was identified as ‘Understand the emerging needs and future trends for customers’.

Business leaders also expressed in their survey results a key challenge around a lack of business diversity and of a clear vision. This highlighted the need for business advisors to shape, challenge and educate customers on the journey their business and industry is taking.


Read the 2015 article by Harvard Business Review to understand the importance of advisors guiding their clients’ journeys:

Write a paper on your target market and the journey their business and industry is taking and present that in your marketing material to customers. Use this as a guide to ensure your advisory offerings are well mapped to this journey and if not, adapt them.

8. Systemise 80%, humanise 20%

Leverage the latest technologies to provide just-in-time training and coaching support to customers anywhere in the world.

Being an early adopter of new technologies will provide greater leverage of a senior advisors’ time, but it’s critical to ensure than systemising the 80% using these innovative technologies should be freeing up time to humanise and personalise the remaining 20%.

100% systemised will lead to a pure commodity service where competition will only be on price.


Review new technologies to leverage and save time as a business advisor. These include webinars, online training and coaching technologies such as Mindshop Online, project management tools, automated marketing and social media tools and much more.

Use the remaining 20% to add personal touches to each customer interaction such as personal videos, tailored elements to workshops, quick one-to-one meetings, skype calls, personalised newsletter articles and more.

9. Attract and retain the best team

Great leadership is essential in attracting and retaining the right team. A quality team will then attract quality clients.

Many leaders are so busy in the current volatile business environment they aren’t spending the time needed to lead by example. Leading in an advisory business is not just about generating sales.


Team members need to be confident that the firm is both innovative and taking advantage of emerging opportunities. Technology is one way of demonstrating that ability but so is the talent management processes which can include training and coaching team members in non-traditional skill areas such as business advisory. Identify your talent and develop a one page plan for them which includes advisory skills.

10. Have an agile delivery model

Scripts don’t work in an unscripted, volatile and unpredictable client environment so business advisors will need to have a delivery model which is more about facilitating change rather than consulting. For example you may be working with a customer to refine their strategy for the year ahead but part way through a new market opportunity presents itself where you need to help them with various growth strategies.

To stay engaged you will need to be agile enough to address these opportunities but use a simple and powerful methodology to keep the overall strategy on track.


A simple and powerful over-arching change process is to ask a customer where they are NOW with regard to a change project, WHERE they want to be in a set time frame and then work with them on HOW they will get there.

When designing a sequence of tools to use in your delivery models (or using packaged workshops) don’t waste months attempting to build the perfect model (as the market will pass you by as you get ready). Look to get it 50-60% right and take the first steps to addressing client issues and opportunities but stay agile to adapt as you go. There is no better learning experience.

Download the study as a PDF here.

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