Are You Really the One Who’s Driving the Bus?
How to regain control of your professional destiny
For many people, the process of “change” can be difficult. And this is especially true for financial advisors who are thinking about switching firms or models. Surely, those who feel well-served by the status quo should stay put. But what of the advisors who believe that their business and clients may be better served elsewhere, yet allow others (such as a partner or even an assistant) to trap them in a situation that may be less than ideal?
All too often we talk with advisors who feel they are being “held hostage” by a partner or team member who doesn’t share the same interest in making a move.
Take Bob, a veteran wirehouse advisor with $250mm in AUM. Several years ago he brought in a junior partner, Jim, to help with growth and succession. Bob’s goal was to retire within the next 5 to 10 years, but significant changes in culture, compliance and support leave him uncertain if the firm is still the right legacy for his business.
Jim, on the other hand, while not thrilled with some of the changes the firm has enacted, hasn’t experienced the same concern that Bob has. Ultimately, he’s comfortable enough, satisfied with the team’s momentum and growth trajectory—neither of which he wants to disrupt.
But Bob would like to understand how the industry landscape has evolved and if there might be a better option outside the wirehouse model. Yet he is reluctant to exert any energy towards due diligence without Jim being on the same page.
Now Bob is at an inflection point—what does he do?
This scenario represents a reactive rather than proactive response: Sometimes we unconsciously give someone or something else control of our life. And when an advisor cedes his control to others – partners, assistants, or even loved ones – he loses the power to shape his future.
What happens when the pain of staying put starts to outweigh a team member’s unwillingness to leave?
Partnerships are initially formed with the best of intentions, yet as with everything in life, things change. So what happens when the partners themselves are at a point where they have conflicting views about their futures, opposing risk tolerances, or are at different career or life stages?
The ability to move forward starts with recognizing the changes and acknowledging their impact—whether to the clients, the business or one’s own needs. The next step is to get educated on the realm of possibilities.
The reality is that team members do not have to be in alignment before starting due diligence—and in this case, even with Jim’s reticence to explore, there’s no reason Bob should be hesitant to do so. Education is key to making decisions from a position of strength, empowering advisors to be better equipped to determine if the disruption of a move or a potential break in the relationship is worth it. And without fully understanding the options available, there’s no way Bob can present a strong case to Jim that a change in firm or model may be the right path to consider.
Where do we go from here?
Before making the ultimate decision to stay or go, advisors need to ask themselves some critical questions:
- What are the frustrations at the current firm, and what impact do they have on the ability to “get things done,” i.e., service existing clients, prospect for new clients and grow the business?
- What is the origin and depth of client relationships? Are both advisors client-facing?
- Is the relationship with the partner critical to the business? That is, would severing the relationship harm clients or the business?
- What are the risks in making a move? What is the upside in that scenario?
- What are the upsides and downsides to staying put?
Back to Bob
After taking action, answering these questions and doing some due diligence from 30,000 feet, Bob weighed his options and decided that his relationship with Jim was a critical component of the legacy he wished to leave. Jim is a real rainmaker and the right successor for his business—neither of which he could replicate in a move without him. So for the time being, Bob is emotionally willing to make some concessions and rely on Jim’s perspective. And because he is no longer staying by default but has actively chosen to stay after performing due diligence, he has regained control of his future and feels more content. Things aren’t perfect, but they’re “good enough” for now.
People evolve, as do relationships, and those changes can drive partners closer together or wedge them further apart—leaving discontent and inertia in their wake. Digging deep and asking some soul-searching questions enabled Bob to clarify his position and remove the emotional bias to affirm what would best serve his clients and business.
Advisors who find themselves in situations where they have lost control of their professional life need to determine what is most important: The partner/assistant relationship, or the new opportunity. It may not be possible to keep everyone happy, but advisors owe it to themselves and their clients to maintain the reins of their destiny and actively choose their futures.