Back 15 to 20 years ago, financial advisors had a goal to reach, which I dubbed the 150 Club. Many wanted $150 million in assets under management (AUM,) 150 great clients and 150 days off. Add in three great team members and a work/life balance, and you’re in the club!
Back then, many advisors had about $300,000 to $500,000 of revenue (remember gross dealer concession?) and $50 million in AUM, so reaching $150 million was a good, aspirational target. Also, back then, Ron Carson’s book, “Tested in the Trenches,” offered advisors a template on how to get into the 150 Club. It outlined how to build a $2 million to $2.5 million revenue practice. That model had five people on the team, but the concept and vision are the same.
The financial planning industry has grown since then. And those advisors who set out to join the 150 Club grew with it. They joined the 150 Club, and some new entrants to the field have as well.
When you gain membership in the 150 Club, you may celebrate, pause for a year or two, become antsy, bored or restless, and likely set sights on a new target goal – the Half Billion Club (half a billion dollars in AUM) or the One Billion Club ($1 billion in AUM). If not these new clubs, then you’re likely chasing updated future accomplishments.
My colleagues and I at Carson Coaching have been helping many advisors reach the 150 Club, then advance to the Half Billion Club and even the One Billion Club. At these stages, you’ll likely go from advisor to business owner to CEO. You will no longer have a practice – you’ll have a business. Or maybe you’re approaching that journey already. Either way, you will have already implemented and executed “Tested in the Trenches,” and it’s now time to prove yourself in the trenches.
So what does that take? What things should you focus on to get to your next level?
Redefine Your Vision: Life Beyond the 150 Club
I work with Ron Carson, one of the most successful advisors in the country. Ron will tell you the single most important item in his success is his relentless desire to succeed. Ron redefines and rekindles his vision every year by doing his famed blueprinting process, which is the same process our coaching members complete as part of their journey.
Blueprinting has become more important in these crazy times, as many of us have started to reconsider the things that are most important in our lives and our businesses. Regular blueprinting is necessary for this next level.
When done well, blueprinting should accomplish two things:
- Reignite your desire to succeed.
- Create crystal clarity about your vision and what you want from your business.
Your Role As CEO
The most critical determinant of your ability to move from a “practice” to a “business” – and achieve Half Billion or One Billion Club membership – will be your own ability to become a CEO. You may still be a great advisor. You may still be good at managing investment models. You might also be a great financial planner. But that isn’t what your vision needs from you.
To achieve these larger goals, you need to embrace a CEO mindset. This encompasses:
- Polishing and honing leadership skills
- Spending time and energy with strategic planning
- Analyzing and understanding industry trends
- Creating an optimal business model
- Partnering with other organizations
- Creating an executive team to help implement and execute strategies
In simple terms, your focus should no longer be just on thinking about serving your individual clients or your next client meeting. Your focus should now be on scale and efficiency, and on how to build an entity with great internal stakeholders that delivers a robust, compelling and uniform experience to hundreds of clients.
We won’t discuss all issues connected to becoming a CEO. Some of you don’t want to – you love being an advisor. You want to continue practicing your trade. Others may have a skill set that translates into being a great CEO. This is why Carson Coaching has a growing library of content to help advisors become better leaders. This transition requires energy and a desire from you. It’s highly likely that it will also require you to have outside resources, like coaching programs, to assist you.
Now, a couple of key items that are needed to get to this larger vision.
The Simplified Job Description
When you started your business, you were likely doing everything.
But now, you’re not the only CFP™ professional in the ranks of your organization, and you’re also not the one doing everything. It’s your name on the door. It’s your firm and your vision. You’re an entrepreneur and the boss.
As the boss, you should be the one driving the strategic vision of your business. You are likely also the primary driver of the growth to get into the Half Billion or One Billion Club. As such, you need to redesign your job description to reflect that.
As the owner and CEO, your job description should get down to four things or fewer:
- The strategic vision for the firm, because it’s your firm and your vision.
- Mentoring the next generation advisors and professionals at your firm.
- Directly generating new business and implementing drivers of organic or inorganic growth.
- Working with a small group of your A-plus clients, which can still be a core duty.
Did you notice I didn’t say investment management, financial planning, service, systems or workflows? Somebody else – yes, somebody else – like a chief investment officer (CIO), chief operations officer (COO), chief compliance officer (CCO), investment committee or other planning professionals, should take these off your plate.
Think of it like this: As your firm becomes bigger and more complex, your job description should get simpler and more focused. This is hugely important. I have stopped many conversations in midstream to suggest the advisor change the modifiers they are using. Yes, your business will become more complex, but if managed properly, your life won’t need to become more complex; it will be more focused – and simpler!
The Organizational Chart
At this stage, you should already be in the midst of implementing “Proven in the Trenches.” Of course, I’m playing off the title of Ron Carson’s “Tested in the Trenches” book, which provided you with what you needed to get to this point. “Proven in the Trenches” can offer you a template on how to think and operate more like a CEO.
“Proven in the Trenches” is more focused on the CEO mindset, guiding you to build a firm that gives all your clients a robust, uniform client experience, while also helping you implement branded, outcome-based financial planning. It helps you think more like a business owner who is growing beyond the 150 Club.
One critical component to that is to revamp your organizational chart – building it out, if you haven’t already, or optimizing it if you have. Determine what additional roles you may need, like associate advisors, dedicated planners, CIO, COO, CCO or even an HR professional.
To quote from Ron’s book: “To elevate the experience and truly delight your clients, a team is needed.” Said Ron: “Your long-term success will be directly correlated with the quality of the team around you.”
To build a great team, you have to focus on attracting and retaining top talent. Strengthen your recruiting, interviewing and onboarding processes. Strengthen your compensation package. Then, when they’re finally part of the team, treat them well and let them grow so they stay and are immune to talent poachers from competitors.
Uniformity is Another Key
Since achieving the 150 Club status, you’re probably building a more mature brand and generating a better value for your clients. Hopefully, when you’re defining and executing your processes, the word “uniformity” comes to mind.
Outcome-based planning is now the chief driver of the client experience and value. You have to create a uniform, outcome-based client experience where all clients are getting a similar value, regardless of which particular advisor at the firm they’re working with. It is no longer you delivering that experience to your clients – it’s your entire organization.
Congratulations on your accomplishments! You’re prospering and flourishing! You’ve become a member of the 150 Club, and now you have your sights on something bigger.
Reaching that bigger something takes a new level of organization and commitment to your business. A revamped job description that accurately reflects your role. A team that provides a seamless and compelling client experience. It requires that you transition from being a great advisor to a competent CEO.
And the story gets better. The bottom line is this – if you do make that transition, you can build a business and achieve more life balance simultaneously.
If you need help joining the Half Billion or One Billion Club, let us help you.