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Practice Management > Building Your Business

3 Ways Small Firms Can Hire Smarter

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Unless you’ve been overly fixated on the Kardashians for last half-decade, you’re undoubtedly aware of the “talent shortage” in the advisory industry. Simply put, most independent firms are growing faster than professional schools can turn out new financial planners.

While the resulting competition for young advisors tends to favor the larger firms — those that can offer more attractive career tracks and benefit plans — that doesn’t mean that smaller firms can’t get the help they need: They just have to be smarter about it.

To help owners of smaller firms attract the professional talent they need, I tell them to them break down the problem.

Virtually, all independent firms evaluate professional talent using three factors: skills, talent and experience. And as you might expect, the better capitalized firms tend to look for candidates who rate highly in all three — and pay well to recruit them.

Owners of smaller firm owners, on the other hand, don’t have that luxury. To attract the talent they want, they need to do some serious thinking about what they really need.


Let’s be clear about our terms. By skills, I mean the ability to perform specific tasks without a lot of additional training. In advisory firms, desired skills typically include creating financial plans, investment portfolios, using technology, and interacting with clients.

When hiring, smaller firm owners need to decide which of these skills are most important, and what skills they are prepared to teach in house.

Many firms find that not only are candidates lacking in one or more skills more affordable, but training them in house on the missing skills often makes them a much better fit for the firm.


The next important job area is talent, which I define as the ability to apply one’s skills effectively and creatively.

Talent isn’t something you can teach; but it is something you can spot by looking for young advisors’ affinity for a particular client service, and for their willingness to go “outside the box” for creative solutions to unusual client needs or wants.

This is an area where smaller firms can have a recruiting advantage, that is, offering job candidates the flexibility to apply their talent(s), rather than forcing them into a rigid corporate model.


The final category is experience. Yes, everyone would like to hire advisors with experience in applying their skills and talent. But here, too, is an area where smaller firms can offer an advantage.

In smaller firms, all employees, including advisors, tend to wear a lot of hats to meet various client needs. And in this environment, younger advisors tend to become more experienced, more quickly.

Plus, that experience does not have to be adapted from another business culture.

The point is that being flexible in each of these areas — skills, talent and experience — smaller firm owners can get the professional talent they need at a price they can afford. But they should be flexible.

Much of that flexibility involves determining what needs your business has — and what you can do in house to train new advisors to meet those needs. It’s also helpful to be somewhat flexible about those needs.

For instance, you may determine that you need another senior advisor to share the growing workload of the three senior advisors you already have, including yourself.

It’s likely that you can’t afford another senior advisor. But you might be able to hire one or two more support staff to give your senior advisors more time to work with clients — and hire a junior advisor who can become a senior advisor in a few years.

In fact, most small firm owners find that they are more successful when they stop trying to hire people for specific jobs, and focus on hiring good people who can quickly help the firm in various ways. That way, you can train them to do what you really need, and they can grow with the business.


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