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the jerk steve martin

Don’t Be a Jerk

Why a positive attitude often translates into a better deal.

Many advisors assume it’s a seller’s market, where they're in the driver’s seat and have a free pass to act without concern for how they come across to the hiring manager. They often barrel forward with the demeanor of someone who’s ready to fight for the best deal on a new car. But being unkind to recruiters is not likely to get you what you want—a positive attitude is more likely to attract positive results.

Take David, for example, an advisor who manages $1 billion in assets. He spent months talking with me about ongoing frustrations with his firm, the waterfall of possibilities elsewhere and the likely value of his business. He came to the table ready to explore several different options, from other wirehouses to forming his own registered investment advisory firm.

To say that David had a chip on his shoulder is an understatement. He approached every introductory meeting he took with the same posture: “We all know that there will be a bidding war for me, so let’s cut to the chase. How is your firm different from your competitors? What kind of deal will you write me?”

David’s caustic and abrasive mannerisms were the lasting impression left with every representative of the firms he met with.

It is indeed a seller’s market where advisors who have growing multi-million dollar, predominantly fee-based businesses can command top dollar, but that’s not to say firms will recruit someone who comes off as a jerk. Two firms declined to pursue recruitment of David immediately, and two others came to that conclusion over time. While a few firms were willing to play ball and ignore David’s bombastic attitude, when it came time to negotiate the transition package, they all came to the same conclusion: This is not a guy we want to expend political capital on, so the deal will be less than what we’ve offered other like-sized recruits.

Here are five things to keep in mind while at the negotiating table:

  1. The Likeability Index – There are somewhat formulaic standards that most firms use to determine the size of a transition package. While much is determined by the metrics of the recruit’s business—his trailing 12 months’ revenue, assets under management, growth rate, percentage of fee-based business, number of client relationships—some is determined by subjective factors such as the Likability Index. That is, how much the hiring manager likes you.

  2. Never lead with the deal – We all know how important the deal is and that you wouldn’t move without feeling comfortable with the numbers, but trust me, discussions around money will happen in due time. Nothing is a bigger turn-off to a hiring manager than a recruit who is super-focused on the money and his own financial gain.

  3. Make every firm you meet feel as though they are your first choice – No hiring manager will want to expend the political capital on a candidate unless he or she believes the person will accept an offer. So make sure you are continually building that relationship in a positive way.

  4. Culture is critical – This is especially important as you look at firms away from the wirehouse world. With much smaller advisor forces, these firms are very protective of their communities and they would have no problem walking away from even the biggest team if the fit just didn’t seem right.

  5. Treat every hiring manager as though he or she is your best friend – That is, treat them with respect, honesty, kindness and gratitude. He or she has the power to be your best advocate or the one thing that stands between you and a very aggressive deal.

The reality is that no one wants to hire someone with a bad attitude, just as much as no one wants to work for one. Behaving as a flexible and willing partner will create a more positive impression than posturing and rigidity.

Most of all, if you have a sincere interest in a particular firm, display it from start to finish.


Mindy Diamond is President & CEO of Diamond Consultants in Morristown, N.J., a nationally recognized boutique search and consulting firm in the financial services industry.

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