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On the Fence About a Move?

Take stock of what is most important to you at a firm and be willing to be flexible in the areas that ultimately do not matter as much as you thought.

Advisors have more opportunity than ever to build the business that they envision. Yet, with all of the different models to choose from within this greatly evolved landscape, we find many are still searching for a utopian opportunity that doesn’t exist.

If an advisor is still unable to check off every item on his wish list, does it make sense to hold out for perfection? Or should one be flexible in his expectations and choose a better, albeit imperfect, solution?

These very same considerations came up in a call I had with David, a wirehouse advisor in the Midwest. With 25 years under his belt, he became a top advisor at his firm, garnering plenty of attention and lots of exceptions. But things changed. The firm culture became more bureaucratic, with heavy-handed compliance oversight and the feeling that he was less and less in charge of determining what was in the best interest of his clients. So, with annual production of around $3 million and assets under management in excess of $400 million, he realized that he had his pick of opportunities. Even his own firm offered an attractive retirement option, where he would essentially sell his business to his next gen partners and be paid almost two times his book. And many other brokerage firms, both large and small, were offering him very attractive deals as recruitment incentive.

His decision would define the next phase of his business life. While each offer had its own merits, none of them offered everything he was looking for: the largest cash deal, the highest level of flexibility, a robust platform and technology, and a community he could truly relate to and grow with. Inertia started to take hold; David wondered if he should just hold out for that perfect scenario.

To Wait Or Go?

Ultimately, the decision on whether to move or stay put is entirely a personal one. However, it should be based on criteria that will allow you to separate the emotion from the motivation. Your decision-making process should start by answering these three questions:

  1. Just how much pain are you in? That is, to what extent are the limitations or frustrations that you’re feeling impacting your ability to serve your clients and grow your business?
  2. Just how motivated are you to build something new? Whether it’s the desire to go independent or to move to another brokerage firm, a move requires real motivation.
  3. Just how much do you really want what a new opportunity will offer you? This often equates to how important the economics of a deal are and how much value you place on other aspects of a prospective value proposition. And it speaks to just how flexible you are willing to be if any one deal is less than perfect.

David ultimately landed at a boutique quasi-independent firm with a referral mechanism via partner opportunities with the firm’s investment banking unit, a robust infrastructure, a beautiful office and a much more entrepreneurial culture.

That said, the transition package was less than half of what some of the larger firms offered him. While he initially balked at what he considered a subpar deal, in the end, he checked off all the boxes that were most important to him. Ultimately, David believed verily that he would grow faster, service clients more efficiently and have a better quality of life at this boutique shop. Those things were worth more to him than any transition money he might be offered.

Like many decisions in life, we find that rarely do we come upon a perfect conclusion. In these situations, we learn not so much to settle, but instead to accept that nothing in life is perfect. That is, we learn to accept that “perfect enough” is indeed just that. But in order to find what is “perfect enough,” you need to take stock of what is most important to you and be willing to be flexible in the areas that ultimately do not matter as much as you may have first thought. Only then will you find the scenario that defines your best business life.

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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