How to Build a $1 Billion Business: Ron Carson's Recipe for Growth

Firms that focus on vision, strategies, talent and technology can grow substantially despite disruption in the industry, says Carson

Have a vision for the future and work backward to achieve it, Carson says. Have a vision for the future and work backward to achieve it, Carson says.

Ron Carson, the founder and CEO of the Carson Group, which oversees close to $8 billion in assets — about 40% directly managed — contends that financial advisory firms can grow their businesses substantially despite the current “massive disruption” in the industry.

In a session at TD Ameritrade’s National LINC conference in San Diego, Carson told a roomful of hundreds of financial advisors how to build a $1 billion business in the face of new regulations, emerging technologies and an uncertain market environment.

Carson himself is both a wealth manager who leads Carson Wealth and the head of the Peak Advisor Alliance and Carson Institutional Alliance, which help advisors grow and improve their businesses. He recently left an affiliation with LPL Financial after more than 26 years to join Cetera Advisor Networks.

(Related on ThinkAdvisor: Ron Carson Completes Move From LPL to Cetera

Here are the recommendations he imparted to advisors at the conference, which include some that appear to be somewhat unconventional:

1 “Have a simple message. It trumps ‘value proposition’ every day.”

2. Note that regulations can provide a competitive edge, if you comply with them.

3. Have investment strategies that can make money in an environment where interest rates are near zero, including alternative strategies which are getting better and are more liquid.

4. Choose the right partners and grow that relationship, maintaining a continuous dialogue.

5. Don’t build new technology operations yourself. Build integrations with partners to create a “great experience on a digital platform ... Wealthfront, Betterment and Personal Capital are not your competition. Vanguard, Fidelity and even TD Ameritrade are.” 

6. Hire the right talent and don’t micromanage them. “Get out of their way.”

7. Recognize your own strength and weaknesses.

8. View costs as an investment. “There’s no higher return than putting money right back into your business. When you want to monetize, take the money out."

9. Spend time on strategic thinking — one to two hours a week — focusing on where do you want to go with the business, where you’re at now and where you came from. “A moment of thinking is worth hours of doing.”

10. Have a vision for the future and work backward to achieve it, a strategy to accomplish that vision with a team that can execute it, and a focus on your firm’s culture, which is an area where most firms fall short. 

He recommended that advisors have their employees take the Gallup Q12 survey to help measure their engagement, which is linked closely to key business outcomes.

“You have a choice," Carson concluded, "You can be the disruption or the disrupted.”

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