As the world becomes more connected, some people have a hard time unplugging. Advisors with busy clients who aren’t available during the business day have an even bigger challenge.

Yet Merrill Lynch advisor John Kulhavi has built a practice that accommodates both busy clients and a staff that might want to take a break.

The Kulhavi Wealth Management Team in Farmington Hills, Mich. is almost always “on.” The office is open until eight in the evening all year round and on Saturdays until two in the afternoon nine months of the year. “We want our clients to feel that they can always reach us,” Kulhavi says.

The 14-person team keeps these late hours to cater to its large client base, composed mainly of physicians whose work hours are legendarily long. But the team also makes sure clients are familiar and comfortable with more than one team member. “Everyone on the team has a partner,” says Kulhavi. “When I’m out, my partner is in the office.”

The partnering strategy is not only crucial to making it feasible for one partner to get away, it also helps clients feel that more than one person is focusing on them. “My clients know Nicole is available and she is familiar with their portfolios,” Kulhavi says of his partner Nicole Holmes.

Kulhavi became an advisor after serving in the military and made a point to use some of what he’d learned in the military in his new career. The importance of working as a team was one of those things, he says. “I didn’t think any one person could be bright enough or spend enough hours to know everything about this wide array of products.”

Over 35 years later, the team-based nature of Kulhavi’s practice is an essential part of its success. “It’s been a great service model,” he says. “We’ve gotten 30 referrals so far this year.”

Kulhavi says he’s not a taskmaster or micromanager, but there are four principles he asks that every team member adhere to:

  1. Treat everyone on the team the way you want to be treated.
  2. No cliques or gossiping. If there is an issue, bring it to the branch manager or to Kulhavi.
  3. Everyone must work until eight in the evening one night a week.
  4. Everyone must work for four hours one Saturday a month.

But even though Kulhavi has created a system that allows members of the team to unplug, he doesn’t actually tune out when he is away from the office. “I don’t think it’s possible to unplug…I call in two times a day,” he says.
Even so, the partner structure is meant to help address the messages and tasks that can pile up while someone is away. “We want to eliminate the burden of that person worrying about having to come back,” Kulhavi says. “This is a very stressful business…when you’re out of the office you should be as relieved of the burden as much as possible.”

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