At the three-year mark, I looked at how many target clients we had brought on: over 230! That’s the good news.
Of course no advisor gets to this level without help — a lot of help. Over the last three years we have put together the dream team of (I’m taking a deep breath now) one general manager/COO, three client service managers, one para-planner, one insurance case manager, one part-time bookkeeper, and three to five part-time interns and admin help.
Not to mention my favorite business partner, my husband Peter, who also helps coach and guide the team. Once you add me, you can see that we are quickly running out of office space.
Yes, it is a lot to manage and I couldn’t do it without Josh, our COO. Peter observed that our current team is even better than ones we have seen supporting $8 million advisors.
So what’s the bad news? We made a few costly mistakes along the way when it came to hiring team members.
This shouldn’t have surprised me, because when Peter and I go out to a multimillion dollar advisor’s office and do a gap analysis and business plan for them, we always start the process the night before with a private dinner for the owner. We use this time to discuss things that they don’t want to review in front of staff.
Almost always the biggest headache of a multimillion dollar advisor is an employee. Typically it is someone that is causing them huge problems, but they feel they cannot fire for one reason or another. They can’t fire them because they are the only Series 24 in the office, or they are related to the family, or maybe it is their own daughter, who is a coke addict. Yes, we have seen it all.
Keeping these issues in mind, we managed to avoid most of the problems other advisors faced, but we did find a few of our own:
1. Hiring the son of one of our best friends
When we hired Larry (not his real name, of course), I was well aware that it could create problems with his mom, Colleen, one of our closest friends. I did have the good sense to tell her, if Larry was not doing his job, she would never hear about it from me. I also told Larry that I was not planning on reporting anything about him to his mom.
So far so good. Unfortunately Larry was lazy, a liar and liked to spend a good portion of the day surfing the Internet when he wasn’t on eBay or Facebook. Because of the close family ties, it took me almost a year to convince Peter we had to fire him. Just as I am about to terminate Larry, he quits! Woo-hoo!
Lesson learned: Be slow to hire and quick to fire. I don’t think we have ever had an employee that did not work out well in the first 60 days, turn his work product around and make a great employee. If they are not meeting your expectations early, it is highly likely they will never meet your expectations. So a quick parting of the ways is better than prolonged agony.
Now I must confess, that one of the best team members we ever brought on was Josh, who is also the son of some good friends — so this rule is not infallible.
2. Hiring an employee who hasn’t finished college
Since 2008, we have hired a number of administrative personnel in this business and in our other businesses. I quickly figured the hourly rate was much cheaper if the candidate hadn’t finished college. Unfortunately, I later discovered, there was a reason they didn’t go to college. The college experience is not just about cognitive ability; it is also about working with a team to get a project done, learning analytical skills and how to write reports.
Lesson learned: When you provide the concierge level of service that we do, the business becomes very complex. You don’t have to be a genius to work here, but it is important to demonstrate that you have the tenacity and brainpower to finish college. This let’s me know they have what it takes to serve clients in a complex industry.
Today we pass on any candidate who hasn’t completed college with at least a B average.
3. Hiring an employee with mental/emotional issues
Of course we all have baggage. I have my share and I am drawn to help employees with “issues.”