3 Essentials to Support a
Growing Trust and Estates Practice

You know Starbucks as a global chain of upscale coffeehouses. But did you know that wasn’t their original goal? At first, Starbucks just sold fresh-roasted coffee beans from a single location in Seattle. It was only after a change in ownership (and a new business concept) that the company scaled up to become the Starbucks we all know today.

You can benefit from the same approach. Standardizing processes and reporting while maintaining a reputation for quality and innovation is how you scale up to become the Starbucks of trusts and estates practices.

But where do you start? Let’s identify some challenging scenarios that arise as a firm grows in the estate administration and planning field. Then we will prescribe the workflow capabilities needed to address those challenges at scale.

•   You're a solo practitioner with a growing caseload.

At first, a solo practice is relatively easy to manage. It’s even easier if you’re one of the lucky ones who finds a top-notch paralegal or administrator who is not only efficient but can also anticipate problems before they arise. But success breeds complexity. As work expands, time contracts. Even the best assistants get spread too thin if you rely too much on them. Balls start to get dropped and you spend more time fixing mistakes. You realize that you need additional staff — both administrative and professional — to relieve the pressure. You also realize that you must get the new staff members up to speed quickly if you want to keep growing. And you want the new people to do the work to your standards and deliver it on time. You also need an easy way to tell when that’s not happening.

•   Your practice adds a new office.

If the process of expanding within your office can be stressful, that stress rises to a whole new level when you add another office at a different location. Walking down the corridor to check on things is no longer an option. And while you want to retain a measure of control over how the work is done, you also want to encourage innovation and incorporate best practices from the new colleagues. You realize that you need to track performance at the different offices, identifying and addressing issues as they arise.

•   Your practice is ready to get away from cookie-cutter drafting and implement its own approach.

All of your hard work to build your practice and to differentiate it has paid off. You have developed an approach to drafting key documents that is beyond the scope of what is available from specialist providers. You want to incorporate your own ideas and intellectual property into estate administration and planning but you have outgrown the standardized practice-in-a-box platforms.

A System That Grows With You

Consider those scenarios together and you can see that an effective workflow system must evolve as you scale. A successful evolution requires three essential elements.

1)  Standardized work processes.   You need a way to describe how work should be done (who does what when) for different stages of your growth. These descriptions should be simple and straightforward but also flexible enough to adapt as new ideas emerge. Once your processes are in place, you have a common language for training new staff as well as tracking ongoing activity.

2)  Configurable design.   As needs arise, the system must be able to accommodate modification quickly and efficiently without a major rebuild. Adding new people, roles, locations, and types of work should not create major disruptions. The system should also support new tasks associated with your growth — either directly or by working with other specialized tools.

3)  Robust tracking and reporting.   Errors can be expensive and damage the firm’s brand. The fear of errors can also be damaging. It can eat away your staff’s confidence and undermine trust among team members who feel they have to keep asking each other about the status of key tasks. An information system that is accessible throughout the firm and is compatible with everyone’s needs is vital. Team members need a consistent place to quickly find what they’re looking for. They also need a way to push key information to relevant team members so they can quickly see if all is on track — or dig deeper if it’s not. And they need a way to accommodate changing data needs and preferences within different parts of the organization as the practice continues to innovate and evolve.

Level With Us

If you would like to discuss how EstateWorks can help your trusts and estates practice scale up and get to the next level, please get in touch. It’s what we do.

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