While it may not always be easy to find an external successor, it can be done. That was the experience of Kevin Hoyle and Joe Cohen of the San Diego-based advisory firm HoyleCohen, who first looked internally, but then realized that there were not staffers with either right qualifications or enough in the way of resources to buy out the firm.
They decided to look externally, and in 2007, they brought in an executive who had been a partner at the Boston Consulting Group and a former COO. The executive, Mark Delfino, 50, turned out to be a great fit. "I had prior experience as a business builder," he says. "I wanted to be the master architect of the firm's future and growth--which was bigger than the path they were on--and Kevin and Joe agreed. They saw this as a way to build the next generation firm while ensuring longer-term succession for themselves."
Delfino worked under a one-year trial period. This gave the HoyleCohen partners enough time to assess Delfino's working style and management approach; by March 2008 he became an equal partner. Under Delfino, HoyleCohen is currently closing on its second acquisition. The firm's fee-based assets under management are now $450 million, up from $325 million when Delfino joined.