Toronto: “I’m considering joining a team, but a bad experience a few years ago has me spooked. I had two partners, nobody was on the same page, and the break-up wasn’t pleasant,” Michael explained. “Do you have any suggestions?”

As Michael learned the hard way, most advisors don’t conduct the proper due diligence before forming a team, and the financial crisis has brought this to the forefront. With the heightened expectations of today’s affluent, many teams are discovering everyone isn’t on the same page.

The following is the Forming Checklist I’ve adapted from my book, “Elite Financial Teams,” which is based on four years of research. This checklist is designed to determine whether or not two or more financial advisors are ready to come together as a team. However, it can also be used by an existing team struggling to get everyone on the same page.

Team Forming Checklist

Instructions:

Each prospective team member, especially potential partners, should complete this checklist independently. It is important to respond to each statement honestly. At the end of each statement circle the corresponding score.

Scoring:

Strongly Agree – 4; Mildly Agree – 3; Mildly Disagree – 2; Strongly Disagree – 1
  1. Trust—You need a 360 degree circle of trust; you must have complete trust in your partner(s) and they must have complete trust in you. Integrity is an essential component in order to have long-term success as a team.

    I have complete trust in my potential team member(s). (1 2 3 4)

  2. Compatibility—Although trust is essential, you must be able to get along in a high-pressure business environment.

    We can work well together and be supportive of one another. (1 2 3 4)

  3. Work Ethic—Trust and compatibility require work ethic to be aligned among partners. Trouble arises whenever one’s partner perceives he or she is working harder than the other.

    I respect my potential partner(s) work ethic and am in agreement regarding vacations and personal time. (1 2 3 4)

  4. Competency—All team members, especially partners, must be fully capable of performing up to expectations. (This includes rainmaking.)

    I have complete confidence in my potential team members’ ability to perform their duties with professionalism and competence. (1 2 3 4)

  5. Comprehensive Business Plan—Partners must agree on the vision of the team: long range goals, ideal client, number of ideal clients, assets, revenue, services to be provided, etc. All of this must be in writing.

    All potential team members are in agreement with the team’s long-range business plan, goals, and services offered. (1 2 3 4)

  6. Clear & Unified Goals—Each partner must buy in to annual team goals; personal goals must be subjugated to the collective team goals.

    I’m willing to subjugate my personal goals to the collective team goals, and my potential team members will do the same. (1 2 3 4)

  7. Clear Roles & Responsibilities—Every team member should have a clear role and delegated areas of responsibility prior to forming the team.

    I have a thorough understanding of each potential team member’s role and areas of responsibility. (1 2 3 4)

  8. Partner Contribution Clarity—Each partner should have a clear understanding of his individual contribution to the team’s goals. Procedures should be in place for making partner compensation adjustments if one partner exceeds or falls behind individual contribution targets.

    I have come to an agreement with my potential partner(s) on my expected contribution and corresponding compensation adjustments for exceeding or falling behind my contribution targets. (1 2 3 4)

  9. Client Segmentation—Partners must agree on how they will segment their client base (A and B, or Platinum and Gold clients) and appropriate service models for each segment.

    We agree on how to segment our clients and the service models to be delivered to each segment. (1 2 3 4)

  10. Wealth Management Services—Partners should agree on a client-centric process that is consistent for every client within a specified service model.

    We have agreed on the client-centric process that will enable us to deliver a consistent client experience for each service model. (1 2 3 4)

  11. Compensation—A bonus structure for non-partner team members (support personnel) that is based on team growth and individual contribution should be agreed upon in advance.

    We have agreed upon a merit-based bonus structure for all support personnel. (1 2 3 4)

  12. Individual Performance Reviews—You need agreement on who will conduct these performance reviews, how they will be conducted, and when these individual support personnel reviews will occur.

    We have agreed upon a scheduled review process, complete with who will be conducting each review. Every team member will be reviewed at least annually. (1 2 3 4)

  13. Basic Team Operations—You need agreement on weekly team meetings, phone coverage, office hours, etc.

    We have agreed upon clear team procedures for phone coverage, office hours, and weekly team meetings. (1 2 3 4)

  14. Partner Performance Reviews—Team partners must be held to the same level of accountability as support personnel. Senior partners must review junior partners, equal partners must review each other, and senior partners must allow their performance to be reviewed by junior partners.

    We have agreed on a scheduled partner review process that will instill an equal level of accountability to all partners. (1 2 3 4)

  15. Team Performance Reviews—An annual team retreat, or similar off-site meeting, that is attended by every team member to review the past year’s achievements, reinforce individual and team accountability, and make necessary adjustments and reinforce (establish) upcoming team goals.

    We have discussed and agreed upon when, where and how we will conduct our annual team performance review. (1 2 3 4)

Team Forming Assessment—The Results

Score Breakdown

60: Perfect! What are you waiting for? Form your team and get on the road to high performance.

59 – 54: You’re ready to form, but re-visit the areas that you moderately agree upon to get more clarity.

53 – 46: You probably think you’re ready to form but you should slow down and have a serious discussion on each area that you don’t strongly agree upon, to get more clarity.

45 – 36: You’re not ready! You’ve got a lot of work ahead of you.

< 36: Don’t even think about it.

Your Total Score: _______________________________


As I walked Michael through this checklist, his expression told it all—he wasn’t ready. It doesn’t take long to realize that, done properly, forming a team is work but the rewards are ongoing.

If you would like a FREE printable copy of our Team Forming Checklist PDF, please visit our download center by clicking here. Enjoy!

Also, if you haven’t already - join The Oechsli Institute’s Group on LinkedIn!

Once again, we want to thank all of you who have e-mailed comments and questions to us. We will continue to do our best to answer each one.

If you have any topic suggestions or special requests, please contact Rich Santos, publisher of Registered Rep. and Trusts & Estates magazines, at rich.santos@penton.com.