Those yearning to learn the secret of successful wealth management teams can take heart in the words of the famous industrialist and financier, Cornelieus Vanderbilt.

“There is no secret about it,” he said in response to a question about what was behind his success. “All you have to do is attend to your business and go ahead.”

Vanderbilt's words remind us that there is no magic formula for success.

Indeed, none of my research into what separates high performance advisory teams from the rest contains any earth-shattering revelations. In fact, some of the criteria noted in this space in preceding months have been little more than common sense.

However, common sense is not always common practice, and high performance teams don't happen simply because a bunch of professionals decides to come together as a working group. Groups need organizing principals that drive the actions of everyone involved.

The first and most important team-building principal (as discussed in last month's column) is team leadership. This month I offer two others that build on that foundation.

Have a well-defined approach to long-range planning that is fully supported by all team members.

As the following statement from a rep interested in team-building indicates, this goes beyond simply having a written plan.

“On paper, we were doing everything right as a team,” says the rep. “But it was all a façade.”

There are a number of better ways to draft a long-range business plan. What they all hold in common is allowing each team member to contribute to their creation. A long-range business plan must clearly define what the team wants to achieve. The metrics system must enable you to measure your progress, and measuring the “right” indicators is a critical precursor of success.

Make certain each team member's roles and responsibilities are clearly defined.

The main idea behind creating a team is bringing together people with complementary areas of expertise. There are two things that allow a team to take full advantage of the varied talents in the group: assigning vital business development, operations, service and administrative roles to each team member, and refining the descriptions of those roles by giving specific responsibilities to each individual.

These things are important no matter what the state of a business, because most practices tend to be reactive, assigning tasks on a daily basis. Unfortunately, it's far too easy to perform a task without giving any thought to how it fits into the team's long-range goals.

Here are two examples of well-written role assignments:

Senior Financial Advisor (business development)

  • Defining and researching market segments.

  • Connecting with, qualifying and closing high-net-worth prospects.

  • Managing a referral alliance system. Managing the team's weekly and quarterly metrics scorecards.

Support Staff (administrative)

  • Organizing and maintaining a file system for client records.

  • Ordering and maintaining office supplies and forms.

  • Handling inner-company reports, correspondence, compliances.

It's important to involve all team members in defining the specific roles and responsibilities assigned to them. A good starting point is listing all the responsibilities involved in the practice — from operational tasks to sales efforts — and then working together as a team to decide to which team member is best suited to each task.

  • Clearly link each role and responsibility to a long-range plan.

  • Make certain each team member enthusiastically accepts the roles and responsibilities assigned to him.

  • Equip each team member to perform his roles and responsibilities.

  • Support each team member in his efforts to perform his roles and responsibilities.

  • Reward each team member adequately for the performance he achieves in each role and responsibility assigned to him.

These high performance principles will ensure that long-range plans, roles and responsibilities leap off the paper and become the drivers of team performance. Attend to your business, as Cornelius Vanderbilt would say, and there will be no secret about your success.

Writer's BIO:
Matt Oechsli
is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients.