But this year I fought the urge and took a play from our coaches’ playbook. Many of them spend the first few weeks of each new year gathering year-end numbers from their advisor clients, and it occurred to me that in order to plan successfully for 2014, I had to look back at what I learned.
Yes, measuring success is about increasing revenue, gaining new assets, and achieving a work/life balance. But, it’s also about taking your past experiences and moving forward in a smarter way. Here are eight trends I saw among successful firms last year that advisors looking to grow should implement in 2014.
1. STICK TO THE BASICS
Some of the biggest growth years I witnessed occurred in practices that did absolutely nothing sexy or special. Instead, they stuck to the fundamentals and executed the basics extremely well. Think of it this way. The blocking and tackling in your business is a four-legged stool that supports a lot of weight; Leg 1: Do financial planning; Leg 2: Manage the money well (not great, just well); Leg 3: Provide great service; and Leg 4: Have deep relationships with your clients.
2. WEALTH MANAGEMENT IS A CONTACT SPORT
This is a truth our coaches preach every day. Regardless of how you want to grow, it’s crucial to get out of the office and “belly to belly” with clients and prospects -- or other advisors whose business you’re looking to buy. I found advisors who spent a considerable amount of time serving and enjoying their best clients in 2013 received more in return. More assets from their current clients, more referrals, and, therefore, more new assets. It’s a limitless growth cycle once started. And, the same went for advisors looking to buy other firms: many of the most profitable acquisitions occurred when advisors networked with their peers and found practices that were both priced correctly and had a cultural fit.
3. SCALE, SCALE, SCALE
This industry is getting more difficult every year. The big are getting bigger. Those with scale are in the best position for growth while those without it are facing an increasingly harsh environment. Organizational charts, technology, investment processes, etc., need to be designed with scale in mind in order to attract and retain new clients. The advisors who do that and invest back into their business - mostly with technology, human capital, and workflows - are also the ones growing the fastest.
4. SELF-PERCEPTION: BUSINESS OWNER VS. ADVISOR
Those who are building a business grow faster than those running a practice. The fastest growers are spending more and more time on strategic vision, firm leadership, organizational structure, systems and generating revenue. They’re moving away from the traditional “advisor” duties, only making exceptions for their A+ clients and prospects.
5. A+ CLIENTS
Provide unmatched value through extremely meaningful relationships with your best clients to the point where they continuously provide A+ referrals. Keep the golden geese happy if you want to grow. The key, of course, is to find common ground and share your personal passions with this group. I could list dozens of specific passion prospecting activities that have generated new business for our advisors over the past year. Spending time with clients and doing something you both love generates new business. It really is that simple!
6. A+ TEAM MEMBERS
More than ever, you need a business with great people behind you who can deliver and support a great client experience. Doing so also creates capacity for you to allocate more time to growing the business. It’s much easier to grow if your team is delivering great value to clients and keeping your calendar clear to generate new business.
7. CONSOLIDATION…SO FAST?
It seems like everyone is either looking to buy or sell/consolidate a practice. Demographics, the need for scale, difficult markets for some, and a simple desire to enhance one's value proposition are all factors in accelerating the consolidation move. Large firms are partnering or acquiring others and generating even more scale, followed by more success. And, this trend isn’t just happening with the big players. Smaller firms are partnering with larger firms in order to immediately enhance their value proposition and capacity, therefore, allowing them to grow more rapidly and compete. We see this movement particularly evident among Peak Advisor Alliance’s high-level producers. Nearly one in four of our larger offices are partnering or acquiring other practices.
8. HIGH “IQ” WINS