“What are your fastest growing advisory firms doing?” It’s a question we hear often from advisory business owners. After all, we all know that success leaves a trail – there’s no need to reinvent the wheel! Our team of business coaches speak to hundreds of advisors each month, so we have a front row seat for what’s working for successful advisory firms.
Here are 11 things our fastest-growing coaching members have in common:
1. They have a clear vision and an organizational structure that matches that vision.
To paraphrase the Cheshire Cat: If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you get there? Creating a clear vision for what you want your business to look like three, five or ten years from now is a foundational piece for everything else you do. Once you have the vision, you need the engine that will get you there – a team of A-players and a solid organizational structure that is aligned with your vision.
Fast-growing firms have a “now” and “future” org chart so they always know their next few hires and can provide career paths for their team.
2. They are planning more, and “doing” less.
Most successful advisors found their early growth by working harder than everyone else – but they eventually reach a plateau that requires them to start thinking and operating like a true business owner if they want to break through. The leadership of the fastest growing advisory firms is intentional about stepping back and planning for the future of their business. They schedule regular time out of the office to hold strategic retreats, and have clear goals and metrics they’re monitoring as a team, at least every quarter.
3. They invest in their business before they have a need.
Great firms know that if you wait until a business need is obvious (or you’re desperate), you’re already behind. The fastest growing firms we work with make investments before they become critical. That means they hire people before they need the capacity, they implement new technology when they see an opportunity, and they refresh their website while the existing one is still “ok.” The pace of change in our industry is increasing, and you need to be willing to reinvest in your business to keep up.
4. They are shifting to a team approach for client service and advice delivery.
The advisor/assistant model used to be a solid one for building a nice lifestyle practice, but we’re seeing a trend away from this model due to client expectations and industry changes. The fastest growing advisory firms are shifting to a team approach, where each member of the team is a specialist in their area, whether that be financial planning, service, investment management or relationship management. Clients are receiving better advice, better service and confidence that comes from knowing they have an entire team working to help them reach their goals.
5. They have the right people in the right seats on their team.
If just one person on your four-person team is disengaged, that means 25% of your team is not giving it their best – and that can kill your growth! Fast-growing advisory businesses know it is absolutely critical that you have the right people on your team. “Right people” means they’re great cultural fits, completely aligned with your company’s core values. “Right seats” means they’re in roles that are aligned with their strengths. A great marketing mind might be terrible at operations, and an incredibly talented operations person may not shine in a sales role. Remember the Einstein quote – “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
6. They allow their advisors to be great at a few things rather than average at everything.
The successful advisor-CEOs we work with are talented individuals, but they know if they’re trying to play the roles of financial planner, portfolio manager, investment analyst, relationship manager, business development officer, marketing director, client service manager, and CEO (whew!), they’re not doing any of it exceptionally well. Fast-growing firms allow their advisors to be a “master of few” and hire specialists to do the rest.
7. They have a solid financial planning process that is branded and differentiated.
Financial planning is becoming table stakes in the world of wealth management – so how do you set yourself apart from the competition? Firms that are growing quickly realize that they sell an outcome, and have created a compelling value story and branded planning process that resonates with their ideal clients.
Whether it’s the “Confident Wealth Plan,” “Connecting Wealth With Purpose,” or the “Impactful Life Plan,” these firms’ value propositions have both substance and sizzle.
8. They have a relentless focus on continually improving the client experience.
Almost every firm talks about wanting to improve their client experience, but advisory firms that are experiencing amazing organic growth are making sure it happens. They hold offsite retreats that focus on the client experience and create actionable plans to make sure that they are improving. Every. Single. Day. Their goal is to not just keep clients, but to thrill them.
9. They have a functional client advisory council and/or other methods of getting client feedback.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – the only way you can truly know what it’s like to be a client of your firm is to ASK your clients! Firms that experience sustained, above-average growth don’t assume they know what their clients want and need; they have structured methods to get quality, useful feedback from their clients. Client surveys are better than nothing, but focused dialog among a group of clients you’d most like to replicate is one of the best ways to get the kind of feedback you need to be a top-notch firm.
10. They don’t rely on the market to grow their firm – they have a laser focus on business development.
Warren Buffet once said, “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” And, unfortunately, that may be the truth for our industry at some point in the future. Once you adjust for the market, a surprising number of financial advisory firms have no real AUM growth. Fast-growing financial advisory firms don’t rely on the market or M&A for growth – they have a clear business development plan and are executing on that plan every year.
11. They have a coach!
This may seem self-serving, but it’s true! High performers in every industry work with a coach. Whether it’s the team at Carson Coaching or another business coach, firms experiencing rapid growth have a second set of eyes on their business – someone who acts as a strategic thought partner, offers tactical advice, and provides accountability.
How many of the eleven characteristics do you share with the fastest growing advisory firms? In which areas could your business stand to “step it up” a notch or two? If you’re not growing as fast as you’d like to, consider taking a page out of the book from some of the highest-performing firms we work with.
We’re not saying it’s easy, but as Jim Rohn once said, “Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better.”