TRANSITION TALK

If At First You Don't Succeed...

Posted by FP Transitions on Nov 9, 2018 9:53:20 AM

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In 1953, a start-up business called the Rocket Chemical Company and its staff of three set out to create a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers. Toiling in a small lab in San Diego, California, they set about to create a “water displacing” formula for use in the aerospace industry. It took 40 attempts to get the formula figured out.

But figure it out they did, and WD-40 was born. The name stands for water displacement formula perfected on the 40th try. Imagine what would have happened if the inventors had given up after two dozen or so really solid attempts?

The story, and the point, of course, is bigger than trying hard and eventually succeeding. WD-40 was initially a product limited to special uses, an example of which was protecting the outer skin of the Atlas missile from rust and corrosion. But that was just for starters. The product actually worked quite well for a variety of other uses–so well that several employees snuck some WD-40 cans out the plant to use at home on more mundane tasks like squeaky hinges and rusty nuts and bolts. The product eventually became a household staple. By innovating and adapting to the market, this small group of entrepreneurs created something great.

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Topics: Acquisition, Sustainability, Buying & Selling, "Buying, Selling, and Valuing Financial Practices"

FPA Annual Recap : Elevating the Profession

Posted by Christine Sjölin on Oct 19, 2018 9:50:20 AM

The last few years I’ve been unable to attend the FPA annual conference due to personal commitments. It was great to be back on site for this year’s event in Chicago.

The Future of the Industry

As an Official Sponsor of the Next Generation, we are tapped into what young advisors are doing, hearing, and saying. It’s an energizing group to be around—the future advisors I met in Chicago view financial planning as a calling as well as a rewarding career. It does strike me as a bit ironic that the “NexGen” community stops at 37 years old, when the average age of a graduate in a financial planning program (as shared during a conversation with university staff) is 41. I suspect these more seasoned career changers will have an easier time making their way into the industry, but it’s important to incorporate the youngest professionals into existing businesses, as they will impact the industry for decades, if they don’t get discouraged. This new generation of advisors are more dynamic and driven than they’re often given credit for, and these savvy younger professionals will continue pushing the status quo to create opportunities for themselves.

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Topics: Sustainability, Next Generation, Talent Recruitment, FPA, Events

BOOK REVIEW: Successful Hiring for Financial Planners: The Human Capital Advantage by Caleb Brown, CFP

Posted by Kem Taylor on Oct 17, 2018 1:01:45 PM

Brown, Caleb. Successful Hiring for Financial Planners: The Human Capital Advantage. Coventry House Publishing, 2018.

Many small financial advisory firms don’t have a Human Resources Department. So when it comes time to seek out, hire, train, and develop employees, those tasks usually fall to the owner. They must figure out where to find candidates, what to ask in an interview, how much to pay, how to set up a training plan, and how to keep them engaged and motivated. That research takes valuable time away from the owner’s other obligations and productivity.

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Topics: Sustainability, Next Generation, Talent Recruitment

Course Corrections for Your Succession Plan

Posted by FP Transitions on Oct 11, 2018 9:42:48 AM

Course Corrections

Building a sustainable business and incorporating new talent into your ownership structure is a process that takes planning and monitoring. But it’s a process that–when done correctly–can yield incredible satisfaction, growth, and value. A process with so many moving parts including multiple parties and expectations is bound to see some bumps. Sometimes those bumps can necessitate larger course corrections in order to keep the plan on track.

There are a variety of situations that can cause a larger adjustment to your succession plan–whether they’re driven  by G1 or G2, positive or negative, preventable or not, and expected or not. Below is an excerpt adapted from a section of Succession Planning for Financial Advisors, written by FP Transitions Founder and President David Grau Sr., JD.

If Founder Plans Change

The whole purpose of a succession plan is to help your business outlive you, so count on this being a somewhat lengthy process. While some plans on paper may go out 20 or more years, they are implemented tranche by tranche, with planned opportunities for reassessment and course changes or adjustments. At a minimum, plan for annual valuations to monitor value, annual benchmarks using that valuation data to track operational numbers, and plan adjustments every five years or so. Depending on the size of the business, the number of owners, and the goals, some businesses and firms prefer more frequent maintenance so that the course corrections are more subtle.

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Topics: Succession Planning, Sustainability, Selling Your Practice

Which Exit Path is Right For You?

Posted by FP Transitions on Sep 20, 2018 11:53:53 AM

Which Exit Path is Right for You?

You’ve built a business providing financial insight to a growing community of clients. You’ve fostered this relationship over the years and established a trusted role in their lives. As your clients have moved along their journey as professionals, entrepreneurs, investors, or heirs, they’ve turned to you for advice at each step; and now they are counting on your business to be there and to see the process through to the end. This means that as your clients transition into their own retirement, they will depend on your services more, not less. Regardless of the plan you choose, it is your duty as an independent financial professional to have a plan for client service and support that extends beyond your own career.

One way or another, your path as a financial planner will come to an end. The question is whether or not you’re going to exit on your own terms and in your own way. Are you going to create a plan for your exit that preserves the value and growth of the business you’ve spent your career building? Are you going to make sure your clients’ assets are in good hands for the length of their lifetimes, not just for the length of your career?

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Topics: Business Growth, Business Value, Enterprise, Sustainability, Benchmarking

Maximizing Business Growth Through Benchmarking

Posted by Marcus Hagood on Sep 14, 2018 8:48:16 AM

Maximizing Business Growth Through Benchmarking

The average advisor faces a difficult and increasingly competitive industry. With industry consolidation, technological advances, increased competition, more regulatory oversight, and the need to recruit and retain talent, it has never been more critical that financial advisors use benchmarking as part of their ongoing strategic planning process. With benchmarking, a business owner can improve their relative revenue and expense performance, organizational structure, and marketing results to support growth and achieve short-term and long-term goals. Used in conjunction with your business planning process, benchmarking is a powerful tool to track and build additional enterprise value.

What is Benchmarking and Why it is Critical?

Benchmarking is defined as a measurement of the quality of an organization's policies, products, programs, and strategies as compared against standard measurements of their peers and “best-in-class” providers. An effective benchmarking program provides insight into the connection between your business decisions and the resulting outcomes.

Benchmarking improves performance by identifying and applying demonstrated best practices to sales, operations, and procedures. Comparing the relative performance of their products, services, and sales both externally (against competitors) and internally (with ongoing operations and business decisions) ensures that performance meets or exceeds the competition. The objective of benchmarking is to find examples of superior performance and understand the business practices driving it. Effective business owners utilize benchmarking insights to improve by incorporating these best practices, not through imitation, but through innovation.

The Four “M's” for Incorporating Benchmarking into Business Planning

Every firm has unique needs for benchmarking. For example, the goals of a mature firm versus that of a start-up practice may differ greatly. More established business and solo advisors might be more likely to utilize benchmarks to implement changes that result in increased efficiency and profitability. By contrast, a young developing practice may be more focused on driving and managing growth in clients and revenue.

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Topics: Business Growth, Business Value, Enterprise, Sustainability, Benchmarking

Reminiscing About the Future : 20 Years in the Making

Posted by David Grau Sr., JD on Aug 27, 2018 7:00:00 PM

Reminiscing About the Future

The foundations for FP Transitions were laid in 1999, and that makes our company officially 20 years old this year. I founded this company thinking that I knew a lot more about running a business than I actually did at the time. Armed with a law school diploma and a lot of energy and drive, I thought I was ready to conquer at least a small corner of the business world. Turns out that running a business takes experience and business knowledge.

Along the way, I picked up an important axiom from a local legend who said, “Don’t confuse activity with achievement.” He was right, but it took me a long time to understand the difference. In retrospect, the first ten years of our company were characterized with a lot of activity; the last ten years is where the achievement took place. The difference maker for us was hiring an outside CEO, Brad Bueermann, to come in and help us turn our activities into achievement on a national scale. Until then, I confused being very busy with being very successful, or at least constantly being on the verge of success. Everything revolved around me and the lawyer in me silently rejoiced. But this wasn’t a good, long-term model because eventually I ran out of time and energy. And I got older!

Advisors often mistake activity for achievement too, thinking that their one-owner practice that is 90% or more fee-based and that grows steadily at 10% or more every year is proof that they have built a business and that success has been achieved. I see a lot of independent advisors building what I call “books” and “practices,” but not very many building sustainable businesses. What I’ve learned over the past twenty years is that, while it is incredibly satisfying to have a practice that revolves around the founder, that isn’t a durable model, and it is not “a business.” At some point, if a practice is to outlive its founder and provide services to the clients for their lifetimes, and not just for the length of the founder’s career, significant changes need to be implemented, and the sooner the better.  

Early on, we grew fast and I became totally focused on our top-line success and growth rate. But there came a time when it was clear that without strengthening the foundational aspects of our business, it would never grow past a certain point. I had to move myself out of the center of operations and learn to build and run a business like a shareholder, not like the star attraction. Making myself a part of a stronger, more diverse, and younger team of professionals was hard, but very necessary – more than just changing my leadership style, we had to change the culture of our operation and, frankly, that was beyond my skill set. So, we brought in outside help – people who knew things that I didn’t – and that made all the difference. 

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Topics: Business Growth, Building Your Team, Business Value, Next Generation, Enterprise, Sustainability

Creative Acquisition Approaches

Posted by Rachel Beckwith on Aug 8, 2018 11:13:29 AM

Creative Acquisition Approaches

One of the fastest ways for independent financial service businesses to grow is to acquire another book of business, adding a lump of clients and their assets to a portfolio all at once. The reality is, however, that setting out to buy a business isn’t that simple. 

First, your business must be able to handle a sudden influx of new clients. Your infrastructure must be strong, you must have the people and resources available to provide quality service to clients immediately following the transition, and you must have the financial means to purchase. Second, the current marketplace right now is favoring sellers more than ever. Not only are we experiencing a 50:1 buyer to seller ratio on the open market, but values are at a high and the competition is stiff. We’re seeing a greater number of experienced buyers vying for a seat at the table, and we’re seeing more savvy sellers making strategic decisions. Finally, being able to meet the asking price alone doesn’t necessarily constitute a good fit. Even if you have everything in place to make an acquisition, you must meet a seller’s specific criteria in other areas to be considered.

The good news is that our industry has several other ways to achieve the same exponential growth as buying a book of business without a “traditional” acquisition. Strategies like mergers, continuity partnerships, succession planning, strategic partnerships, and sell & stay tracks offer alternatives for advisors who may not have the enterprise strength to execute a traditional acquisition strategy. The following avenues take planning and patience, but they can yield incredible growth and value in the long run.

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Topics: Acquisition, Buying & Selling, Mergers, Continuity, Equity Pathways, Sustainability

"Sustainability and the Future of the Profession" – NEW FPT article in Journal of Financial Planning, July 2018

Posted by FP Transitions on Jul 9, 2018 11:42:43 AM

This month's Journal of Financial Planning includes an in-depth piece written by FP Transitions' President & Founder, David Grau Sr., J.D.: Sustainability and the Future of the Profession. See excerpt below and click to read the whole article.

"It only makes sense for independent advisers to design a wealth management cycle that addresses the client life cycle. To be clear, I'm not saying for one minute that independent advisers can't make a very good living–they can and are for the most part. Today's independent advisers are not failing in their work of providing professional, relevant, and much needed financial services advise to their clients; they are failing to sustain a business beyond their own careers, leaving their clients to do that portion of the planning on their own, and advisers (and their broker-dealers, custodian, and insurance companies) are leaving an incredible amount of money on the table as a result for no good reason."  

CONTINUE READING 

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Topics: FPT in the News, FPA, Sustainability

Defining Your Enterprise: Taking Stock & Moving Forward

Posted by David Grau Sr., JD on Jun 26, 2018 10:30:00 AM

Taking Stock and Moving Forward

In the work that we do, our clients want to build something bigger and stronger, for one reason or another. The goal may be to grow and then sell it to a third party or a consolidator for maximum value. Sometimes the goal is to create a sustainable enterprise capable of supporting a gradual transfer ownership, leadership, and responsibility to an internal successor. 

Many advisors arrive on our doorstep using terms like “silo” and “ensemble” to describe to us what they believe they have built. However, these terms merely describe the organizational structure, which is just one facet of the strength of an independent advisory enterprise. They are not sufficient for diagnosing ALL structural elements needed to support a sustainable, profitable, valuable enterprise in this highly-regulated and sometimes complex industry. When we start a growth path with limited terminology, we inevitably have to ask a lot more questions of our clients to figure out exactly what they mean, what they really want to accomplish, and how to help them get there. 

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Topics: Business Growth, Enterprise, Sustainability

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