For the vast majority of financial advisors, building a business begins with anything but a strategic growth and onboarding plan. They start out as a jack-of-all-trades; perhaps with annual AUM goals and corresponding planned increases in head count, but allow the business to grow organically and haphazardly. As demand begins to consistently exceed capacity in a certain functional area, they bring on new people and skill sets (perhaps a new relationship management person, a portfolio manager, or an operations manager) to offload some of their responsibilities to.
It’s an approach that has served many financial advisors well, but it’s not a recipe for building a durable business that can achieve sustainable growth. To achieve that, you need a strategic onboarding plan – something few financial advisors have because it requires taking a considerable amount of time to build a clear vision for the business and the technical skills, relational skills and problem-solving/decision-making skill sets that will be necessary to realize that vision.
Onboarding yourself out of a job
Odds are you never got into the business to be a manager, let alone the CEO of a large firm. But as your business has grown over the years, and continues to grow, your role needs to evolve and your financial advisory team needs something more from you – not just rainmaking but leadership.
It requires that you cast off your jack-of-all-trades cloak and instead become more of a visionary, thoughtfully and strategically focusing on the experience and skill sets that will be needed down the road to ensure a continually high-performing financial advisory team and an exceptional service organization with enterprise value. Keep in mind, that in order to sustain growth, you need to add capacity before it’s required, not when you’re scrambling to keep up with client demand and desperate to get a body onboard.
Some financial advisor owners recognize that it might be in their best interest to hire a CEO and not try to fulfill that role themselves. Others forge a more traditional path by focusing their efforts on whatever they do best and surrounding themselves with complementary people.
It can be a successful approach, but understand that it’s small firm thinking, not visionary, and will likely limit your firm’s growth potential enterprise value significantly.
Perhaps you’re a wizard at constructing investment portfolios and love that aspect of the business. Merely surrounding yourself with a team that can handle all the rest of the relationship management, trading and compliance functions isn’t going to be enough if you envision a business that’s also providing outsourced portfolio management to other advisors. In that case, you may need to consider onboarding a strong analyst and an additional portfolio manager sooner than later.
Your long-term goal should be to become an owner of the business rather than an operator in the business. Whether or not you want to remain active in the day-to-day running, think about how you can work yourself out of a job by strategically onboarding the best people to perform the work you envision. Not only will it free you up to focus more on looking ahead, removing yourself as an essential cog in the operation will also greatly improve the enterprise value of your firm when the time comes to exit.
Coaching Questions from this article:
- What’s your vision for what your firm will look like in five years? How about 10 years down the road?
- What sort of strategic onboarding plan do you have in place for that same time period? Do the skill sets and projected new hires align with your vision?
- How do you feel about the concept of becoming a CEO and strategic visionary more so than a day-to-day operator in the business?
- Think about your current day-to-day responsibilities. Which of those could be offloaded to existing team members and which will necessitate additional hires?