Do you have clients or partners?

June 19, 2014 Globe and Mail

June 19, 2014

By Doce Tomic

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at

What you stand for often depends on whom you’re standing with. Do the clients you serve know that you are steadfastly dedicated to their success? Do they have faith that you will remove obstacles to their growth before they have even had a chance to worry about them? In short, do they feel like you have got their back?

Attentively nurturing your client partnerships is vital to establishing long-term relationships with them. Big wins are meaningful, but it’s often the little things that you do on a regular basis that will set you apart from competitors.

One of the little things we did at Credential Financial a few years ago that has had a profound impact on our business was to start referring to our clients as “partners.” Though a seemingly insignificant change on the surface, we’ve witnessed an amazing shift in the mindset of both our partners and our employees as a result. The term “client” says “We’ll work with you because it will make us more profitable,” while “partner” implies “We’re aligning ourselves to your needs.”

As a national wealth management provider serving Canadian credit unions and portfolio management firms, our success depends on the business growth and well-being of our partners. While every business is different, these four guidelines are critical to building a solid business partnership, which in my opinion is a critical foundation for any business.

1. Be an indispensable resource

Having the ability to anticipate and fulfill your partners’ needs before a challenge strikes will make you a valuable ally. An example is how we are addressing the regulatory developments that are having an impact on the financial industry right now. Changes required by The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, intended to identify U.S. citizens for reporting to the Internal Revenue Service to reduce tax evasion, and regulatory amendments from the Canadian Securities Administrators  to improve transparency of client costs and account performance, will drastically affect the way the majority of our advisers do business, so we are talking to our partners early on to gain a deeper understanding of their needs. This approach has been crucial to the development of the tools and resources that will ultimately prepare them for a smooth transition.

2. Make it personal

In a world of one size fits all, it is important to cater to your partners’ needs wherever possible. By offering tailored solutions, your partners will recognize that you are willing to go the extra mile.

3. Give your partners a voice

Make it a priority to include and talk with your partners as often as possible. Providing them with a forum for discussion to raise the issues which are important to them allows you to learn about their business needs prior to developing your own business strategy. This will help set a well-informed direction for innovation and other developments.

4. Be accessible and accountable

Defining mutually agreed upon service levels, responsibilities and strategies – and reviewing them together annually at a minimum – demonstrates your intent on offering high-touch service. Keep in mind that there will be bumps along the way. How quickly and honestly you react if things go awry will go a long way to maintaining your partners’ trust.

Everything that you do should be based on strengthening your partnerships. The key relationships and solid connections that you foster over time will give you the edge over your competition. Of course, every strategic partnership is built on mutual prosperity; therefore, it’s important to strive toward offering more in return than you receive.

Doce Tomic is president and CEO of Credential Financial, a national wealth management firm owned by Provincial Credit Union Centrals and The CUMIS Group. He is also a member of the Institute of Corporate Directors and TEC Canada, a peer advisory group for chief executives.

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