Beginning with the end in mind
Sandy met with UBS last week and came away impressed, but with more questions than answers.
Rod had lunch for the third time with a business development officer from a significant RIA in his market and was intrigued for sure, but still really unclear about how joining that firm could help him grow.
Cindy and her partner agreed to a meeting with the recruiter for a boutique independent broker dealer simply because they are wondering if the support they get from their current BD is robust enough.
Sound familiar? It should, because in a world where ensuring asset growth and gaining scale is uber-important to every firm – no matter its size or stature – you are on the radar of every recruiter and manager in your market.
Of course you should accept the invitations from these folks. It’s flattering to be wanted and it’s certainly important to get an understanding of what the competition is doing. The only problem with this approach is that it isn’t at all strategic and most advisors report back that, after a series of random meetings, they are more confused than ever and less certain of whether any of the options would actually move the needle enough to warrant the disruption that a move creates.
The reality is that many advisors start vetting firms without knowing exactly what it is they are ultimately looking for in the first place. And then these same advisors often find themselves either staying put out of a sense of overwhelm, or “settling” for a solution that may not actually solve for the issues that set their exploration in motion in the first place.
Charting the course to your desired destination
No ship sets sail without knowing its final destination—that is, a journey always begins with the end in mind. Likewise, knowing exactly what it is you’re looking to solve for makes it far easier – and certainly more efficient – to identify and evaluate solutions that will definitively align with your goals.
Start by asking yourself these 11 questions to uncover your frustrations, goals and expectations, and assess their importance:
- What’s frustrating you?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how much does each frustration bother you?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, to what extent does each frustration tangibly impact your ability to “get things done?” That is, to service your clients the way you want to, grow your business, and prospect for new clients?
- What are your personal and professional goals?
- Where do you see yourself 5 or 10 years from now? Is it with the same firm you are at now?
- How do you want to live your professional life? What is your vision for “ideal?”
- Just how entrepreneurial do you think you are? Do you want the ability to fully customize your service offerings or do you like a plug-and-play environment?
- How important is transition money? If it’s essential, how much would be meaningful?
- If asked to weigh short-term upside vs. long-term enterprise value, which is more important to you? Put another way, how much do you value the upfront check vs. building long-term enterprise value?
- Which would you value more: 100% equity in your own business or some equity in your own business plus equity in a larger entity?
- How confident are you in your pipeline and growth trajectory?
What most advisors find is that the answers to the above questions provide a solid foundation for defining what it is they are actually looking for. And those who do not take the time to go through the exercise often find themselves spinning their wheels.
For example, Vince and Joe came to me after having met with a few independent firms. While they were interested, there was some reluctance. After digging a little deeper, we found that though intrigued by the freedom and flexibility that independence offered, what they really wanted at this point in their careers was the big upfront check and to work for a name brand—things they were not going to get from the firms they met with. They jumped to vetting solutions before they defined what they really wanted, and therefore journeyed down the wrong path, taking meetings that were ultimately not a good fit. Once they clarified their goals, Vince and Joe changed their strategy and met with firms who were more likely to be a good match.
Navigating your way forward
Once you’ve gained clarity on your goals and expectations, you can move forward strategically. Come up with a short list of options based on your defined goals and then create a vetting process and outline essential criteria for decision-making.
Changing firms is certainly not an easy task, but it can be far less arduous with a destination in mind and a map to guide you. Being strategic in your process will allow you to alleviate some of the stress that naturally develops during times of change and help to ensure you get to where you really want to go.
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