When it comes to planning for their clients, most financial advisors are focused, detail-oriented, strategic thinkers. When it comes to their own career planning, however, many folks take more of a ready, fire, aim approach. Most advisors ask the same critical question, “Would a change of firm or model provide a better opportunity for me to foster growth and serve my clients?” It depends.

If you’re considering leaving, ask yourself these questions:

1.     What are the things that frustrate you at your firm?

2.     What tangible impact are these frustrations having on your ability to service your clients, grow your business, and enjoy a high quality professional life?

3.     What are the benefits to you of being associated with your firm? For example, what would you like to duplicate if you were to move?

4.     Given all outside influences (your personal life, the mile markers you want to hit at your firm, your economic needs, and your short and long-term goals), do you feel that it is the right time to make a move?

5.     What does it take to run your business? What are your clients’ needs? Given those, where do you see yourself next?

The key is to employ a strategic approach so the advisor can identify his priorities, and can create a plan of action for next steps. It’s not quite as quick or easy at it sounds. Conversations like these usually take place over the course of weeks, months or even years. In most cases, the initial identification of frustrations and limitations is not enough to serve as catalysts for change. It’s more a series of negative actions over time—plus one—that is the proverbial last straw. For this reason, we suggest advisors review this strategy often during their careers.

 

When Curiosity Knocks

Take Patrick, who had been with his wirehouse firm for 20 years generating $1.5 million in annual revenue on $200 million in assets. While he was more than comfortable at his firm and knew the lay of the land well, he was beginning to acknowledge limitations on his marketing and personal branding, and having to navigate a more bureaucratic environment. He knew that he would grow his business faster if he could just open more doors via prospecting events and an aggressive social media push, but his firm was not amenable to his plan. Were these frustrations minor annoyances or “must change” catalysts?

After sitting with his angst for a while, Patrick decided to take a few competing firm managers up on their lunch invitations. After each meeting, Patrick came away feeling more confused than before, as each manager tried to sell him on the benefits of their firms, rather than focusing on his needs. As a result, Patrick resigned himself to the idea that he would just ride out this imperfect storm at his current firm. Patrick shared his recent experiences with me and was kind enough to let me offer some perspective. We had two lengthy conversations over the next two weeks and walked through our decision methodology. This exercise yielded a short list of firms and options for Patrick to consider. He was able to organize his thoughts and begin a due diligence process with his goals clearly outlined.

Patrick may ultimately decide that a change would not be in his best interest, but at least, in that case, he would choose to stay at his firm from a position of greater strength.

Taking a strategic approach will likely ensure your arrival at the right destination.