The Skill Set for Exceptional Performance

March 17, 2015

by Dan Richards

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Building an initial base of clients and assets is a huge challenge, and many rookies exit the business in the first few years because they fail that initial test. But once you have built that initial client base, you face a very different set of challenges to take your practice to the next level. Overcoming that challenge boils down to identifying and cultivating the skill set needed for exceptional performance – and that’s building and managing a high-performance team.

Recently I received an email from an advisor, commenting on two of my articles that appeared last year, How to Avoid the Coming Crunch on Advisor Compensation and More Ticking Time Bombs that Threaten Your Business. The advisor wrote:

“Terrific article on the inevitable changes coming down the pipeline. One big challenge for us relates to managing these ‘larger teams.’ As one such team that is growing quickly both in terms of assets under management and number of people, our biggest struggle (by far) is human resources – dealing with people and trying to ensure that we have the right people and the correct number of people.”

The transition from a practice to a business

This brought to mind a conversation with a colleague who runs a tech incubator. He talked about the number of start-ups that attract an initial client base but then stall, unable to make the transition to a more substantial enterprise. He observed, “What it takes to build an initial business, which is driven by the founders’ skills and energy, is very different than what it takes to run a bigger business, where you need to lever the skills of employees.”

A similar principle applies to financial advisors. Ask a room full of successful advisors about the one factor that was most critical to building their initial base of business and you’ll get a wide range of answers: some will point to listening and relationship building, others to discipline, determination and resilience, still others to the ability to promote their brand or the decision to focus their practice on a narrow niche.

I hosted two recent roundtable lunches with advisors with assets over $250 million. We focused on what it took to make the transition from practices primarily driven by their energy to larger, sustainable businesses that are not solely dependent on their efforts.

The advisors at those lunches identified seven discrete elements to building and running the high-performance teams that are integral to their businesses. These are summarized in the graphic below. In the coming weeks, I will highlight some of the commentary from successful advisors about what it takes to run those teams. While every advisor did not initially talk about all seven steps – in fact at first many only talked about two or three – once others had raised them, there was broad consensus around these seven steps.

Exceptional Performance Skill Set

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