How to get back on track when your exploration leads you down an unexpected path
It’s natural to begin an exploration process with preconceived notions, guided by confirmation bias; that is, the desire to “prove” our thoughts are well-aligned with reality. Yet, as the due diligence process unfolds, you may find yourself more confused than when you started—maybe even losing sight of what prompted you to explore in the first place.
It’s like you’ve just been thrown a curveball: it was all lined up very nicely in front of you, then things took an unexpected turn.
At this point, many question whether a move even makes sense: Could it be easier to settle for the status quo and just stay the course at your current firm?
What to do when the process has become less of a straight line
Recognize that due diligence is a process of discovery and its intent is twofold: First, it’s an education on an industry landscape that looks vastly different than it did even a few years back; and second, it’s an opportunity to learn more about yourself and your goals.
So take a deep breath and think back to what prompted you to explore in the first place. What is it that you’re looking to accomplish? Then consider these 3 points to help you realign and get back on track:
1. Recognize that perception isn’t always reality
With so many firms vying for top talent these days, separating fact from fiction can be challenging. Rather than relying on what others have to say, stay true to yourself by remaining objective so that you can see the truth and possibility that lies before you.
Taking a home office visit is often the best way to decide whether the firm you’re considering is truly the right place. More than just a dog-and-pony show, a visit to a firm’s headquarters will provide you with the opportunity to get your questions answered by senior management while also giving you a sense of the firm’s culture. Be sure to ask questions that directly address your personal and professional goals, while always keeping your clients’ needs top of mind.
2. Accept that there is no perfection
While we would all like to find our version of utopia, the reality is that every opportunity will have its plusses and its minuses. Be realistic and flexible: There will always be things you need to give-up, so determine what your “must haves” are early on. Unless you can find an opportunity where the gains exceed the give-ups, then perhaps you should consider staying the course at your current firm.
3. Don’t be afraid to change direction
There’s no shame in admitting that the destination you envisioned as your next may not be the best fit for you or your clients. Perhaps you always thought you would launch an independent firm, but after getting educated and doing some serious soul-searching, you realize that you simply don’t have the entrepreneurial DNA to be a business owner. Conversely, you may never have considered the possibility of independence, yet after learning about the multitude of independent options available to advisors today, you’re drawn to the freedom and flexibility that this model offers. In any case, recognize that the intent of the process is to gain clarity. If you find yourself heading down a path that doesn’t feel congruous, don’t be afraid to hit pause and change direction.
Keep in mind that the due diligence process is just that—a process. An open mind and a good sense of what is guiding you (what we often refer to as your “True North”) will allow the process to inform and enlighten you. Set the bar high and be thoughtful, vetting the options to find the best model and firm for you, your clients and your business. From there, you will have what you need to create the next chapter of your business life.