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#10: Autonomy and Control when Joining a Larger Firm

There are many benefits to joining a larger advisor firm: better resources, diverse skill-sets, established teams, and increased support. But many solo advisors find it difficult to navigate their own sense of autonomy and control when they move into a larger firm. 

Being used to tackling everything from HR to client relationship management to client work itself, they find the transition to be unsettling and uncomfortable at first. But if a move to a larger firm is what you are looking for, change can and should be expected. 

Those changes don’t mean that you have to lose who you are and your unique flare as an advisor. We are going to outline a few important ways to help navigate the transition from a solo practice to a larger firm. Our aim is to help you broaden your perspective and allow you to hone in on the work you do best and the ways that can be done with a larger firm.

Redefine What It Means To Be In Control

A great strength of many advisors is their independence and can-do spirit. They’re used to getting in the trenches and making things happen. That approach has led a lot of advisors to success. But there are many limitations to this approach. Let’s take a closer look at what those are. 

Many advisors have grown their business by taking charge of all of the details. They design the client experience, serve as the point person for all client interaction, they design and build the financial plans, they manage investment selection. In many cases, they’re also in charge of HR, accounting, finance, strategy, technology, marketing, and compliance. 

This take-charge approach means that all decisions go through the advisor, which gives them an added sense of quality control. They know exactly what is going on, when, and how. Here’s the problem with that, in assuming all that control, they also become the bottleneck in their practice. 

One person only has so much capacity and maxing out your capacity by handling so many other aspects of your business can limit you from providing your excellent services to other households. But when approached with this concern, advisors know that their growth is stifled but have a deep aversion to relinquishing control. 

This is a huge concern for successful advisors looking to join a larger firm. They can’t imagine letting someone else help in the selection of staff, designing client experience, managing investments, etc. But what advisors need to remember is that when you try to control everything, you are actually being controlled by the job, not the other way around.

By holding on too tightly to this sense of control you are actually losing more than you gain like:

  • Decreased work/life balance
  • Increased pressure to always be on-call, outside work hours and even on vacation
  • Less time to focus on client work and revenue
  • Increased likelihood for burnout

Sometimes control is an illusion and letting go, even just a little, can improve the quality of your life and the quality of the work/service you are able to provide to clients.

Prioritize The Good Of The Many

Another top concern for advisors moving into a larger firm is not having the freedom to operate in their unique way. They are concerned that they won’t be able to use their “secret sauce” for managing client investments, plans, relationships, adding value, etc. We hear this concern a lot and completely understand where the advisor is coming from. 

Our approach at CX Institutional is that all of our advisors need to be client-centric. What does this mean in practice? Well, we prioritize processes, systems, and advice that are inherently designed to be in the best interest of the client each and every time. 

So if you are asking questions like can I still operate in this certain way, that isn’t really the right question to be asking. Rather, we want what is best for the clients. If your particular strategy has a better track record than what is currently in place,  we want to know. Because then, we would take that strategy, put it onto our platform, and then implement it across the entire firm.

This might be a time where advisors come to terms with the fact that their secret sauce may not, in fact, be the most effective way to do business. If it isn’t better for clients, then why would you want to keep doing it that way? This idea echos our value of being client-centric as opposed to advisor-centric. 

The other side of that coin is that our goal is to build a scalable, repeatable client experience. Consistency is probably the most important factor in client satisfaction. We can’t build a consistent client experience based on one person’s unique abilities. First of all, it’s not scalable across the larger organization. If it can’t scale, it can’t be consistent. No one has built a large enterprise without a consistent client experience.

Make Your Voice Heard

Most institutions know that a good system is one that can adapt, develop, and change as need be. We know that our system isn’t always perfect and we seek new ways to tweak and improve the way we are doing things. 

In a video by Simon Sinek, the author of Start With Why, he detailed a prime concern of information gaps in larger organizations. This means that most of the knowledge is on the frontlines and in our case that would be assistants or para-planners. They know how customers are responding, how the tools and the technology are working, and other information that’s really vital to the company. Yet, most of the authority to make decisions in many companies is at the top, where executives are often removed from that granular knowledge.

We don’t want to structure our business in this way. That is why we want to get the best ideas from everyone in the firm. Of course, that includes new partners as well. Often, great ideas come from people who bring fresh eyes to a situation. So don’t be afraid to bring your ideas and pitch better ways to improve systems, processes, or the client experience because we want to hear it!

Joining a larger firm isn’t for everyone, but if you are interested in pursuing this avenue know that there are some changes you will need to make in terms of your day-to-day operations but when you find the right firm, you will be able to do more of the work you love and serve your clients even better. 

If you’d like to learn more about joining an integrated wealth management firm, you can schedule a call with our corporate development team and send a note to info@cxinstitutional.com.

We also have a white paper called A Sense of Sovereignty available for download. It goes into more detail about the issues that we’re talking about today and can be found below.

Further reading