Setting out to build your own business is an exciting proposition, but it is essential to know what you are getting into before you take the leap. Launching your independent firm creates many advantages and opportunities for advisors: freedom to operate your business how you think best meets the needs of your clients, more options on your service model and control over your work environment. It allows you to cater to your clients’ specific wealth management needs so that they are confident that you’re looking out for their best interest. It's not just about offering financial advice; it's about navigating the dynamic landscape of running a successful and independent financial advisory firm. However, with this freedom comes more responsibility. You are no longer only an advisor — you are now an entrepreneur and business owner as well. As such, there are four key areas you will need to ensure you are prepared to manage.
1. From Top Line Growth to Bottom Line Results
For most of your career, you have measured yourself on revenue growth and sales. As a business owner, equity in your practice will become increasingly important. This transition from a sales-only focus to an equity and bottom-line focus is often the biggest change in mindset for an independent advisor. Building equity starts with a clear vision of your business goals and ensuring you align your cost structure to create the most compelling client value proposition. This will require investing more time working on the business, rather than simply in the business. It also means stepping back as a CEO and making trade-offs that impact your P&L on things like rent, payroll, marketing and other investments. Defining and understanding your key success metrics beyond the revenue line will become more important. With the right planning and tracking you can progress towards your goals.
As with all entrepreneurs, while upfront investments may seem challenging, they lay the foundation for creating substantial equity value in your independent firm over the long term.
2. Managing the Legal and Compliance Challenge
For many advisors, compliance can be a burden to achieving growth. Often the broad range of policies intended to manage the lowest common denominator in large firms can be an annoyance for a more established advisor. Fortunately, with the proper processes it does not have to be cumbersome.
As an independent advisor, you will have the responsibility to manage risk within your business. The key to simplifying compliance is to create policies that fit with business processes and are easy for your team to stay in line with. Getting it right at the outset is important, but you will also need to revisit and improve constantly as your business evolves. While this may be challenging, when advisors get it right and integrate compliance into their daily processes, they improve their ease of doing business and reduce frustrations. Having the right partner to think through this and help put the right organization and process in place is key to avoiding a compliance quandary.
3. Integrating Technology & Operations
The slow pace of technology development, cumbersome manual processes, and tools ill-suited to the specifics of your practice are common issues we hear from advisors looking for change. Moving out on your own does not on its own guarantee an improvement, but identifying and integrating the right technology can make a meaningful impact on the productivity of your business. When applied correctly, the right combination of advisor and client portals, digitized paperwork, automated workflows & notifications, and streamlined reporting can significantly enhance the advisor and client experience and help grow the business.
Understanding and selecting the most indispensable software tools — CRM, client databases, Financial Planning, Portfolio Management and Reporting — and how they work together are critical decisions. Furthermore, ensuring the tools integrate seamlessly with your custodian is another critical piece of the puzzle to be solved.
Additionally, marketing tools such as social media, website, and search engine optimization are becoming increasingly more important to advisor growth. Deciding how you will align specific technologies like these with your business processes can influence your success more than you may realize.
4. Developing Your Team and Human Capital
A seamless transition to independence requires a strategic approach to developing your team and human capital. The wrong technology strategy can complicate your business and lead down a rabbit hole of complex change. The most important thing is to do your research to ensure that the tools and platform you invest in meets your unique needs. Determine your key technological requirements and what you can’t compromise on and select the technology suite that meets those needs.
As an advisor you have had to deal with leading your team, but as an independent business owner those responsibilities will only increase. You are responsible for sourcing and selection, defining staff roles, performance management and creating incentives and recognition. You are handcrafting your work environment — you get to decide what kind of culture you want to create and how it will contribute to your success. Creating the right culture and retaining top talent can be the most important factor in achieving your financial goals and providing exceptional financial advice to your clients.
For many who are ready to make the leap to independence, solving for this is a welcome new challenge. For others, the change may prove more daunting, and finding a partner with the expertise and support may be the prudent path forward. Either way, if you’ve been considering going independent, we are interested in having a discovery session to help you find the path that best meets your needs. We believe success goes beyond the platform, and involves spending the time helping advisors to become successful business owners. If you are contemplating a change we would love the opportunity to share our perspectives.
If you have questions or want more information, please email us: firstname.lastname@example.org