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Practice Management > Building Your Business

4 Key Steps to Having an Associate Advisor Help Grow Your Firm

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Advisors focused on growth are continually searching for ways to manage more clients and more assets. Adding an associate advisor to your team is one strategy to do that. An associate advisor is a novice advisor who generally has less than three years of experience and who supports the activities of the experienced advisor.

Associate advisors can be called by many titles, such as servicing advisor or staff advisor, and their job can structured in many different ways. The key for your practice is to determine what role the associate actually fulfills. One approach is to have the associate advisor focus primarily on assisting the main representative with client service. Another approach is to have the associate advisor do more complex tasks such as conducting portfolio and plan review meetings and closing prospects generated from the firm’s client acquisition activities. An associate may have his/her own book of business, generally on the lower tier of the firm’s clients. In some firms, the associate advisor may be a potential successor, likely a family member, who is learning the business by performing some or all of the above tasks.

It’s important to have a clearly defined job description that includes the primary objective of the job; the knowledge, skills and abilities required; and a list of the essential job duties and tasks. From this, the associate advisor should have answers to the questions “What do I do,” and “When do I do it?”

There should be a formal document that contains all of the specifics about the position itself (position, duties, compensation) as well as applicable state disclosures, and non-compete/ non-solicitation agreements. Having your employee sign all applicable documents is essential!

There are four key factors that are essential for your associate advisor’s success:

  • Self-Management

The associate must be able to present himself in a professional manner so she conveys competence and confidence to your clients. The associate also needs to build effective personal productivity habits.  The senior advisor must set clear job and professional development goals for the associate.

  • Client Relationship-Building and Maintenance
    The associate advisor must become proficient in building and maintaining client relationships. He should be comfortable interacting with clients and following your established process for client service, including uncovering the unique wants and needs of prospective clients through the discovery interview and ensuring that clients receive the appropriate levels of contact and service. Further, the associate advisor should be knowledgeable about your product offerings and be comfortable explaining product features to your clients.
  • Sales and Persuasion Skills
    An associate advisor must be able to participate in business development activities to attract qualified prospects and convert them into clients, including lead generation and marketing implementation. At the client level, this means having the ability to prospect and “close” clients.  At the firm level, the associate advisor should be able to contribute to and support branding, target marketing and public relations efforts. Senior advisors should engage the associate in writing press releases, developing prospecting campaigns and crafting the firm’s marketing message. 
  • Coachability
    While the associate advisor will bring many skills to the position, remember that she is primarily in a learning mode. Ongoing training is important to further your associate advisor’s knowledge base. Be sure to set up a training and development plan with completion dates and clear expectations; regular feedback from you is essential. It will be most effective if you document the measurements that will be used to assess the successful completion of each goal, as well as track performance so that you can provide encouragement and constructive advice.

As the senior advisor, you play an essential role in the associate advisor’s success through mentoring and setting clearly understood expectations. You need to pass on the “lessons learned” and best practices you have acquired through your career. It will serve both of you well to have a professional development plan in place to set a path for them to take on more responsibility in the business as their readiness level increases.



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