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The Very Best

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In my July article in Research, I published an appeal to advisors to fill out my “Best Practices 2011” survey. Over 380 FAs responded. To everyone who helped: Thankyouverymuch!!

Let me reiterate my view of “best practices:”

The one thing that differentiates top producers from those who struggle, and even those who almost make it to the winners’ circle, is this: those who make it to the end of the rainbow do a little bit better at practically every aspect of the business. Not a single one of these ideas or practices will get you there, but a combination, while continually adding more, is what will keep you moving on the path to being the best.

To put it another way: There is no secret to success except this: Implement more “best practices” across the entirety of your business.

Scope of Business

Since I launched my survey, I have written a series of follow-up best practices articles. They are archived at As you plan your new year, I would consult them and incorporate best practices that you do not yet own into your plan.

For you to succeed beyond the hated “average,” you must deploy best practices in four areas.

One of these is investment strategy. A major reason advisors lose clients is poor investment performance. A reason you don’t generate lots of referrals is poor or mediocre performance. Today, in my opinion, good investment performance must include a method to get out of the way of the next trainwreck. I covered this in my June 2010 Research article, “Get New Clothes: Don’t Stick with a Nakedly Wrong Strategy,” available on

In addition to your investment skills, you must also deploy best practices in the management of your business, your client relationship skills and your prospecting skills. Drawing from my survey, I will now show you some of what I consider to be the best “best practices.”

Winners and Not

In the tables that follow, you can study key business characteristics of two groups of advisors:

Winners. I decided to use $200 million in AUM as my own version of the “winner’s circle.” Almost all of these have been in business 10 years or longer.

Not Winners. I would certainly not use the term “loser” for this group. Many will have incomes way above the national average. But per the skewed standards of success in this industry, this group would not be receiving invitations to the Chairman’s Council, etc. For my “Not Winners” group, I pulled from my survey FAs who have been in business at least 10 years and have $50 million or less in AUM.

Firm Type Matters

If you would manage $200 million or more, you most likely hit your goal if you are in a national or regional wirehouse.

Lately, I’ve even seen a few independents reading the same tea leaves and moving from independent to wirehouse.

Now, keep in mind that “best practices” is a recipe. No one ingredient will take you to the winner’s circle. 

Table 1

Team Structure Matters

Odds are 80-20 in your favor of making it to the winner’s circle if you are a partnership.

I hate to say, “I told you so,” but I’ve been telling you so since 1989 when I became the first to recognize the seminal role of partnerships in business development. I have posted an updated version of all my Research magazine articles on partnerships at There you will also find many other team building resources.

The “Other” category for each was very interesting.

Table 2

For the Winners, all of the “other” choices are different kinds of teams ranging from four partners, to lead broker with two registered associates, to a bank trust company department, to a one-owner, multi-advisor team.

For the Not Winners, the “other” responses were mostly variations on a single-advisor practice such as a producing manager, or “me and licensed assistant with own smaller book.”

A Large Clientele Matters

Hardly the day goes by that I don’t hear that advisors should limit the size of their books. The usual number is 100 families.

The reality is: size matters.

Little advisors tend to have a small client base.

Consider: 14 percent of Winners have fewer than 100 families; 39 percent of our Not Winners have fewer than 100 clients.

Table 3

On the flip side of it, 51 percent of the big boys and girls have 300 clients or more while only 15.9 percent of the little folk have a big book. Never stop prospecting!

Prospecting Matters

Number of families and prospecting obviously go hand-in-glove.

There is a lot more prospecting going on among Winners than their smaller counterparts. You would think, because of the smaller number of clients, they would have more time to prospect. But as you will see, the Winners have a team to do a lot of the work.

Table 4

A Support Team Matters

This chart tells it all: The big guys have help; the little guys don’t.

Table 5

“But wait!” you say. “The big guys can afford it” — to which my answer is: The Winners got big because they built a team. The chicken comes first.


Bill Good is chairman of Bill Good Marketing. His Gorilla CRM System helps advisors double their production or work half as much; visit His seminar program, “No More Pies,” helps advisors manage ETF portfolios using technical analysis; see And his blog,, has lots of useful information for advisors who need to beef up marketing. To preview Bill as a speaker, see his YouTube channel: