FA Center: Here’s one more box to check when hiring a financial adviser

Top investment advisers understand investment products, create financial plans and explain complex concepts to clients. As they succeed, their business expands and they need to hire employees to support their growth That’s when problems can creep in.

The skills advisers need to serve clients differ from what’s required to assemble a winning team of hard-working, highly engaged staffers. Recruiting, training, and managing a workforce can prove more distracting and stressful than the actual practice of financial planning.

If you rush to plug holes in your business, you’re inviting trouble. Desperate, scattershot hiring almost always backfires. Before bringing in employees, craft an elevator pitch for what differentiates your firm and why job candidates should want to work there. In a few sentences, summarize your purpose and your desired impact on clients’ lives.

“Have a clear vision for the business, a story to tell new employees,” said Sarah Dale, a partner at Performance Insights, an Atlanta-based consulting firm. “If they don’t have clarity of what the team is trying to do, they won’t have a bigger-picture view of what the whole practice is delivering and where you want to go.”

It’s not enough to claim that you’re helping clients attain peace of mind and financial security. There’s nothing wrong with promising to empower clients to make smart decisions and control their destiny, but that’s a tired, overused description.

Instead, enliven your pitch by focusing on vivid imagery, a proprietary strategy, or some other unique aspect of your firm such as a commitment to maintaining only a small number of clients so that you can shower them with exceptional service.

Once you articulate a captivating vision for your firm, define each role you need to fill. Dale suggests asking two questions: What has to get done, and who can do it?

From there, you can hunt for talent that’s aligned with your needs. Vet the most promising job candidates by resisting the urge to find applicants who remind you of you.  

“People like to hire people like them,” Dale warned. “But the ideal team member may be the opposite of you. What you need the employee to do might be what you don’t want to do,” so be open to divergent personalities with wide-ranging skills and character traits.

In weighing whom to hire, Dale suggests that advisers identify three stages in the life cycle of their firm: finding, grinding, and minding.

To grow, you must find clients. Attracting newcomers gets easier if you recruit outgoing, sales-oriented staffers with an extensive network of contacts within your target market.

Once these clients come aboard, the daily grind of managing the office becomes paramount. For that, hire detail-oriented employees who can fill administrative roles with reliability and professionalism. 

Minding the firm’s long-term growth centers around client retention as you seek referrals and manage relationships, not just with the individuals you serve but also their families and other players such as accountants and estate planning attorneys. Hiring solid contributors who proactively propose ways to improve the business and keep it humming paves the way for sustainable growth.

Even if you hire superstars who are a good fit for each stage of your firm’s evolution, you must still lead with consistency and fairness. Self-starters may not need much supervision, but everyone benefits if you stipulate what constitutes excellent performance, how you’ll track their progress, and what professional development opportunities await them.

“Each person needs clear individual expectations and goals,” Dale said. “You can’t just say, ‘Welcome aboard. Have at it.’”

In his book “The E-Myth,” Michael Gerber emphasizes the importance of having repeatable processes in place for employees to follow. Train them to replicate tried-and-true systems and you will improve results while reducing errors.

When Dale works with advisers on team development, she listens as they explain various parts of their business operation. For each step — from generating referrals to qualifying prospects to closing sales to on-boarding new clients to scheduling periodic client reviews — she asks the adviser, “Do you have a process or checklist for that?”

“Often, the adviser answers yes and then we talk to the support team and they say no,” she said. “Some advisers have a process in their head, but they haven’t put key critical tasks on paper.”

More: The most popular stocks for active mutual fund managers

Also read: What to do when saving enough money to retire demands drastic action

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