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Choose Your Destination Before Charting the Course

Eleven strategic questions to help advisors follow the right path during the recruiting process.

In a world where ensuring asset growth and gaining scale is important to every firm, you are on the radar of every recruiter and manager in your market.

Of course you should accept the invitations from them. 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 strategic. After a series of random meetings, most advisors report back that they’re more confused than ever and less certain of whether any of the options would actually push the needle enough to warrant the disruption that a move might create.

The reality is that many advisors start vetting firms without knowing exactly what they’re looking for in the first place. And then, these advisors often find themselves either staying put out of a sense of being overwhelmed or settling for a solution that may not actually solve the issues they’re having.

Beginning with the End in Mind

No ship sets sail without knowing its final destination. Likewise, knowing exactly what it is you’re looking to solve, makes it far easier 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:

  1. What’s frustrating you?
  2. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much does each frustration bother you?
  3. 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?
  4. What are your personal and professional goals?
  5. Where do you see yourself five or 10 years from now? Is it with the same firm you are at now?
  6. How do you want to live your professional life? What is your vision for “ideal?”
  7. 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?
  8. How important is transition money? If it’s essential, how much would be meaningful?
  9. If asked to weigh short-term upside versus long-term enterprise value, which is more important to you? Put another way, how much do you value the upfront check versus building long-term enterprise value?
  10. Which would you value more: 100 percent equity in your own business or some equity in your own business plus equity in a larger entity?
  11. 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 don’t take the time to go through the exercise often find themselves spinning their wheels.

For example, advisors Matt and Nicholas 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 although intrigued by the freedom and flexibility that independence offered, the advisors wanted a big upfront check and to work for a name brand—things they weren’t going to get from the firms they met with. They jumped to vetting solutions before they defined what they really wanted, journeying down the wrong path and taking meetings that were ultimately not a good fit. Once they clarified their goals, Matt and Nicholas changed their strategy and met with firms that were more likely to be a good fit. 

Moving Forward Strategically

Changing firms is certainly not an easy task, but it can be much less arduous with a destination in mind and a map to guide you. Like Matt and Nicholas, once you’ve gained clarity on your goals and expectations, you can move forward strategically. The idea is to come up with a short list of options based on your defined goals and then create a vetting process that outlines the essential criteria for decision-making. With that in hand, you’re more likely to get where you want to go, following a path with fewer detours and less stress along the way.

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