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Advisors Letting Go & Gaining Control

Richmond: “I do everything for my clients, they love me, and at the risk of sounding arrogant, I get introduced to their friends, clients and colleagues without asking,” Warren explained in sort of a frantic staccato. “But I’m killing myself. I can’t go on at this pace or I’ll be dead next year.”

Sounds quite dramatic, doesn’t it? But after a rather lengthy discussion, Warren confessed that he’d been working on this issue for over two years. Still alive and well with a healthy business, over $100 million of assets and north of $1 million in production, Warren wasn’t some young Turk sharing an assistant with five others. He’d been working with his own personal assistant for a number of years. I recognize that many advisors would love to trade places with Warren; however, many veteran advisors are facing similar challenges – letting go of control. They can’t let go.

For example, after Warren finished explaining all he had to go through to procure the proper documents for a client and his attorney (the attorney also referred the client) — how he succeeded, how only he could’ve done it and how pleased both were — I asked, “Couldn’t your assistant have handled that task?”

His body language provided more insight than his non-answer response. His assistant “wasn’t good at solving problems, she was smart but didn’t like to think for herself,” and was too busy doing routine clerical work. Huh? But you get the picture. Like many advisors, Warren didn’t trust his assistant to handle anything but routine administrative work. He prided himself in being the indispensible “go-to” professional. However, because he’s been incapable of letting go, he’s still a one-man band and killing himself in the process.

Now that we had gotten to the root of the problem, Warren confessed that he’d interviewed at least four junior advisors to help him manage client relationships and help his assistant with administrative issues, but none was up to his standards. The same was true in his efforts to hire a part-time assistant. Go figure. It was obvious that Warren was smart and knew his problem, but he was going through the motions of attempting to solve it as he was creating obstacles each step of the way. Warren was afraid to give up control.

I walked Warren through an exercise we use frequently when refining roles and responsibilities. Whether you’re on a team or solo, working through exercises should help you improve your overall efficiency.

1.) Determine your primary role. Like many advisors, Warren finally concluded that what he could never delegate was a) relationship management of top clients, and b) relationship management with his centers of influence (this was his rainmaking turf.) But he could delegate relationship management of smaller clients, money management, and administrative problem-solving.

2.) Outline everything that is interfering with you spending 70 to 80 percent of your time performing your primary role (above). Here you want to list all the tasks you must delegate/let go.

3.) Determine the primary role of each member of your team/practice; partner, junior advisor, expert, support, intern, etc.

4.) Have each individual sign off with your description of his or her primary role and then ask everyone to outline what is interfering with them being able to spend 90 to 100 percent of their time performing their primary role (you’re spending only 70–80 percent of the time in your primary role because you must oversee what you’ve delegated/inspect what you expect.)

5.) Determine the changes necessary to implement the above; jettison smaller clients, create a better service model, hire another assistant, hire a junior advisor, hire an intern, fire a poor performer, etc.

6.) Outline the role of your future new team member, junior advisor, part-time assistant, intern, etc. (if no new additions are on the horizon, outline the ideal role of your primary assistant.)

7.) Take action! Whether it’s delegating, hiring, firing, or communicating, baby steps that are linked to an objective bring about tremendous results.

None of this is complex, but for many advisors (Warren has lots of company), letting go is very uncomfortable. They must be in control and hate paying money for someone who can’t perform tasks at their level of perfection. Unfortunately, they end up doing all the low-dollar tasks that elite advisors delegate.

The irony of control is that you must let go of control in order to gain control. For every advisor who is serious about growth, letting go is essential. Granted, it’s not easy getting the right people in the right roles and then training them to the ways of your practice. This is work, but also a requirement for growth.

Who knows what Warren will do. But his COIs have asked about his capacity, and in his words, “I know I’d get a lot more business from them if I develop a team.” It’s obvious that he’s at a fork in the road; one path is letting go (delegation), team building and growth, while the other leads to insanity (his words). Letting go is far outside of his comfort zone, but my hunch is that he’ll opt for growth. How about you?

If you would like a pre-release excerpt of our 2011 Administrative Assistant Survey please visit our download center by clicking here.

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If you have any topic suggestions or special requests, please contact Rich Santos, publisher of Registered Rep. and Trust & Estates magazines, at [email protected]

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