I recently did a workshop for owner-advisors who want to take their businesses to $1 billion in assets under management at the Bob Veres Insider’s Forum in Nashville. We don’t have room here for all of my presentation, but there is one part of it that I suggest for all owner-advisors, regardless of the size of their firms or their goals: Create a team of your own advisors. No, I don’t mean the ones your hire to serve your clients. I mean the ones you hire for yourself.
I know from long experience that you’re probably not going to listen to this advice, so I’ll target most of this blog toward Gen Xers and millennials, who I’ve found to be more receptive. But older advisors should still listen because your businesses are usually larger, which means you’ll benefit the most from this advice.
Before we get to the team you need, let’s talk about why I think you need it. We’ve all heard the saying “it’s lonely at the top,” but most of us seem to think that’s some kind of joke, intended to make the rest of us feel better about not being at the top. The reality is that it’s no joke. Whether you’re running a three-person shop or Fidelity Investments, you have to make hard decisions that are often unpopular with some, or even all, of your employees.
While it’s better if your employees like you, they aren’t your friends, and you can’t treat them as such. They have their roles, and you have yours. It’s important that you don’t send messages that make them confused about that. What’s more, as advisory businesses grow, the top job tends to get more and more lonely, as your decisions have a greater impact.
Now, don’t get me wrong here; it’s always important for a business owner to get as much feedback as possible from her or his employees — and equally important is to truly listen to them. They are on the front lines and you are not. Usually, the only way you’ll know what’s really going on in your firm — good and bad — is when your employees tell you.
At the same time, you have to keep in mind that their perspective is often not (read: rarely) entirely objective. As with all of us, their views of reality can become skewed by a host of factors: rivalries, aspirations for advancement, jealousies, competitiveness, self-preservation, insecurities, etc.
All of this means that while employee feedback is essential, it’s rarely impartial. And running a successful business requires both impartial and objective information and judgment. To get this, CEOs of the largest corporations have teams of advisors who work directly for them. I’ve read that when they change jobs, these CEOs are far more likely to take their team of advisors with them than any of their employees. They are that important.