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Questions to Ask When Building or Structuring Your Team: Part 1

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Building a team is a complicated endeavor. Bringing more people under your business umbrella means you are expanding your capacity, capabilities and range of services, but it can also feel like clouding what once seemed like a very straightforward approach: providing your clients with services that only you—and you alone—could offer. 

I’ll save the benefits of building a team for another blog (we outline many here) but suffice it to say that, for successful advisors, the benefits of having a team in your corner far outweigh the benefits of going it alone. But how do you know if you’re making the most of it? Whether you are in the process of building your team, or you have already built one, carefully consider the following questions to ensure that you are really getting the greatest impact from your investment in human capital.

QUESTION 1: Have you clearly identified your team members in terms of their roles?

You should be very clear on the roles, and therefore the responsibilities, that each of your team members hold. Are there members who are specifically financial advisors, financial planners, investment or portfolio managers, advising specialists (including tax advisor, legal advisor, retirement specialist, insurance specialist, etc.), and operations specialists (including COO, compliance specialists, CFO)? Who on your team provides backing for these team members in the form of administrative or executive support? Are these roles static or fluid depending on the client or situation? While they may change, you should be clear and specific about how they change so that there is always structure around these roles.

This will clarify: Exactly which services you are providing and whether or not you have all your bases covered within that. Start by identifying the skill set of each of your team members and fill in what you need to develop as you go along. 

QUESTION 2: What is the structure or model of your team?

Is your team a vertical team with one CEO and multiple partners, a horizontal team with multiple partners managing the team together, or an ensemble practice where advisors share overhead expenses, but not clients?

This will clarify: How you should best interact with one and other and what types of power-structures guide the processes of the team. Taking a step back to look at your structure will allow you to evaluate if you are collaborating with your team members in a manner that is consistent with the vision you have for your team.  

QUESTION 3: How would you characterize the primary way the team delivers your firm’s services?

Do you provide: Financial Planning: personalized financial planning, retirement and estate planning, and investment management; Investment Advisory: investment strategy and advice, and monitoring of investment managers; Investment Management: investment recommendations, discretionary investment management, and trade execution; Wealth Management: comprehensive, integrated advice, including: tax, estate, financial planning, and investment management; or some combination of these services?

This will clarify: What, exactly, you provide to clients and how they can benefit from your services, which will help articulate your target audience and marketing strategy.

QUESTION 4: What is the WHY that motivates and drives your team?

As a team you should be very clear on this, for you but also for your clients. Make sure you have the following in writing and work with your team to co-create it using your collective thinking: A list or statement of core values, a vision statement, and a strategy plan. Refer to these during your teammeetings as frequently as possible to ensure that you are on track with the vision for your business and the expectation you have for your clients’ experience.

This will clarify: The ideas that drive your business in the present and future. It will help you make strategic decisions with regard to your sustainability and succession planning, and, more importantly for the immediate circumstance, it will give your clients and prospective clients a sense of security and consistency when they interact with you. 

QUESTION 5: Does your team have specific team performance goals and individual performance goals?

Both your team performance goals, which are performance goals for the team as a whole, and the performance goals for the individual members of your team should be discussed regularly in relationship to one and other and to your vision for the business. They can be discussed during team meetings, in written reports, reflected in salaries and bonuses year-to-year, and reviewed regularly, but they must be always at the core of your business.

This will clarify: How your work as individuals informs the accomplishments of the team overall. It gives each member on the team a clear understanding of their contribution and their unique role in the business. 

QUESTION 6: Are you clear on the characteristics of team relationships that most contribute to your team’s success?

Understanding how and why your team gets along is an important factor in maintaining your success as a business. Do your team members benefit from: Investing time in building relationships with one another, supporting one another in accomplishing goals, trusting and respecting on and other, seeing value in their differences from one and other, or finding fairness in the distribution of work and compensation? It may be none of these things, but a successful team will be able to discover how they click and why. Likewise, you should know what characteristics of your team relationships most limit your success.

This will clarify: How to capitalize on the aspects of your team that make it cohesive and limit those that do not. It can also increase your ability to resolve conflicts and inform hiring strategy moving forward.


Look for part II of this blog series on team building on ThinkAdvisor.