As we head into the holiday season, it’s good to remember no one wants to go through life alone. Sharing experiences with friends and family is how we create wonderful memories.

As busy financial professionals, though, it can be easy to become isolated and feel like you’re building a business as an individual without outside support, especially if you own a small advisory firm and have no employees or very few.

Being involved in a community of peers is important for business development, but it’s also critical for developing ourselves and growing personally.

Community groups in financial advice aren’t a new thing, but smaller groups of like-minded individuals are growing; and it’s an international trend that deserves your attention.

All advisors can benefit from being in a professional community and network of their peers. Here’s how to define your community so you can become engaged.

Four Steps to Take

Deciding on the professional community that’s right for you is essential. If you’re a new RIA owner, you may not fit well with a group of advisors who have been running their own firm for two decades. You may be more comfortable with an online group, or you may only want an offline group.

The decision to find and join a specific community is no small feat. Here are four steps to help you define what will be best for your professional and personal stage of life.

1.  Decide how much you want to engage.

Some advisors want daily or weekly engagements with the network, others may prefer to check in once a month or less. The rate at which you want to engage will help keep you from burning out or feeling frustrated.

2.  Pinpoint what you want to learn.

As part of this step, you need to understand your personal preference for the participation model. Decide at the outset if you want to simply be an observer and absorb knowledge or work your way toward becoming a group leader.

3. Define your desired outcome.

Your learning desires may be specific to running a business, or you may be looking for ways to be a better leader. Your objective, whatever it is, should be clear.

4. Pick the type of community you most want to join.

Many advisors get the most out of spending time with those in a similar stage of business. If you are a startup, you may want a community of young advisors, but if you’re looking at succession planning, the best group may be one also dealing with that same issue.

Community, at its core, is about sharing ideas and time with others. Though it may sound like mentorship, the two experiences are quite different.

Mentorship or Community?

Mentorship and community can be related, but ultimately, they are different elements of personal and business growth involved with each type of experience.

For starters, mentorship is a one-to-one relationship. Community is more often a one-to-many relationship where there are many people involved.

Having said that, in many cases mentorships can develop from community. However, the intent of finding a community is to engage with many others who have similar experiences so you can create an ongoing, collaborative conversation that lifts the entire group.

Thriving in a Community

The first rule is to be active. It’s OK to start out being passive, but don’t let your engagement end there. Even if your main goal is to absorb knowledge, you do still need to be actively engaged with the ideas of others, even if you aren’t dominating the discussion.

Community can help us live a richer life in pursuit of our passions and help us improve as people as much as business owners.

But if you really want to achieve the most benefits, you have to be willing to be vulnerable. Sharing your experiences and your thoughts will help to earn trust, and so will refining your ability to listen to what others have to share with you.

Communities can be small instead of large. And often, you can get more out of a small study group than membership in a national organization because you’re able to develop deeper relationships by engaging more often with fewer people.

When deciding whether to join a community, action is required. You may be fearful about starting something new, but don’t let your fear impede your progress.

Don’t be afraid to try a group and decide later to quit. In fact, you may need to try multiple groups before you find one that is worthy of your time.

Finding your fit isn’t a perfect, one-and-done scenario every time for all people. But trying a few groups before you find a fit is not the same as failing to find a group.

If you do find you’re having trouble fitting in with a community, go back to your “why.” Why do you want community? How will it help you and how will you use it to help others?

Take some effort to research and explore the groups available to you. When you put in the time to find the right fit, community can be an enriching experience.

Chances are, there is a community for you out there.


Jarrod Upton, MBA, MS, CFP, is chief operations officer and senior consultant at Herbers & Co., an independent management strategy consultancy for financial advisory firms. He can be reached at www.HerbersCo.com.