Look to your right, then to your left. Odds are, you’ll see at least one team hard at work — and for a few good reasons.
Teams grow faster than solo practitioners. Cerulli Research reports that half of all advisors work on teams. Is it time for you to assemble one?
People who work in teams tend to be happier than those who work on their own. Investment firms prefer teams, because they are less likely to bolt.
But to be successful in a team, you need to be think carefully about who joins it and the ground rules used to manage it — which are not for everyone.
Here are some steps advisors need to take first:
1. Do a gut check on prospective team members.
A team is a second family.
“You’ll probably spend almost as much time with them as with family members. Do your personalities mesh? Can you communicate with them in a clear and open fashion?” says Michael Silver of Focus Partners, an advisor coaching and practice management firm based in Paramus, New Jersey.
Consider the character of potential team members.
Do you have a sense of how they might act under pressure or when things aren’t going well? Can you resolve differences in a respectful and amicable manner?
2. Look for complementary skill sets.
Team members should complement one another’s skills to be a true team.
One success story involved a retirement specialist, portfolio manager and two rainmakers.
“When they were alone, each advisor was forced to be a jack of all trades,” Silver explains. “Coming together as a team gave them the flexibility to pursue the areas at which they were best.”
3. Craft a strong marketing plan
Prepare to tell the story of how the new team will enhance services offered to clients. Articulate why it matters to the client.
Be specific and tailor your branding and story to current clients, prospects and centers of influence. Devise a mix of marketing events, phone calls and email campaigns.
Silver recalls one new team from the Midwest that sponsored three separate meet-and-greet events, one for each of the client groups brought into the partnership by each advisor. This strategy proved to be successful in introducing the broader team to the different clients.
4. Decide how team members will be held accountable
Agree from the onset on a system for reviewing progress and performance. Will team members or an outside sales coach assess the business?
5. Define how NextGen clients will be treated.
Sometimes millennial team members and more senior advisors will clash on how to woo members of NextGen, says Darren Cde Baca, president of DCB Strategies, an advisor coaching and consulting firm based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Cde Baca, CFP, CIMA, has a formal process called “Storming, Forming and Norming” to help advisors of different ages work through these differences.
This process deals with controversies over whether millennial team members should contact second- and third-generation members of client families on their own initiative — or should they need to have senior team members make the initial introductions?
If a senior advisor refers a client’s millennial children to junior advisors and then has no further involvement with them, how will junior team members be compensated?
6. Establish a well-defined team agreement
A team agreement optimally should address as many potential scenarios as possible.
Potential team members who can work harmoniously together to plan for difficult scenarios are well suited to work together.
Not all marriages were made in heaven, and not all teams were meant to last. Be sure your exit strategy spells out how assets will be distributed if a team member leaves or retires — or if you want to boot someone off the team, says Kevin Galbraith, founding principal of the Galbraith Law Firm in New York.
A team agreement also should include strict confidentiality and non-disparagement provisions, Galbraith adds, to ensure that sensitive information is protected and that any bad feelings stemming from a breakup do not spill into the public, which can cause real harm to advisors’ hard-earned reputations.
Most important, he points out, remember this: Think of your team agreement like a will. Both types of documents should be reviewed regularly and updated as necessary; not every provision you put in place five years ago will fit into the vision and goals you have today.