inventory control, manufacturing and distribution. Our firm changed
that by creating teams with specialized skills to support advisors.
Think of it as a pilot and co-pilot in the cockpit of a plane, aided by
mechanics, flight attendants, dispatchers, air traffic controllers, etc.
Everyone works to ensure the pilot can move the plane safely from
point A to point B. Start thinking how to combine people in your firm
into more powerful teams to support client-facing activities.
Many firms ignore formal marketing teams, but to grow rapidly
you need one. Our firm has three full-time professionals, along with
three other people part-time, plus outside public relations and graphics firms. Think of combining skills inside and outside the firm.
Purchasing and inventory control is advisors meeting with clients
and collecting and storing financial and personal information. At our
firm, collecting and storing data is a primary responsibility of the
co-advisor, if one is assigned. The actual technology for storing and
manipulating data is handled by yet another team of IT professionals. This is the division of labor into different parts, enhancing the efficiency of the all-important client-facing activities.
Planners can create winning teams at
their firms by creating a work culture
that values collaboration.
building THE TEam
Manufacturing is the analysis of information and development of
recommendations and action plans, traditionally the venue of the
advisor. This is a great area to create a powerful team. In our firm, five
professionals work full-time doing all the planning work, including
meeting with clients if the advisor wants.
Accounting and administration in small organizations are often
given short shrift. As your firm grows, however, it’s critical to get a
solid accounting and billing team in place. Without it, you won’t be
able to figure out what’s going on financially soon enough to do something about it. (Think about the perils of driving through a thick fog at
Owners rarely have all of these skills. Beyond that, there are important leadership and management talents necessary for meaningful
growth. This is the area where a powerful combination of individuals can spell the difference between a so-so firm and a powerhouse.
Very few good financial advisors are great business managers. Even
so, most owners find it hard to share control and decision making.
I see it this way: Without purposefully creating a team to properly
manage and lead a small firm (which means sharing control and decision making), very few individuals — maybe one out of 1,000 — will
have the requisite skills, energy, drive, temperament and time to do
everything necessary to build a planning firm past 20 people. Put another way, there are probably 1,000 financial advisory firms that have
20 employees or more. Virtually none have just
one person running the show.
WORK Cul TuRE
So, how do you create winning teams? You
start by creating a work culture that values collaboration. In a teamwork environment, individuals truly believe that thinking, planning,
decisions and actions are better when done
cooperatively. Unfortunately, institutions like
schools, family and, yes, workplaces, emphasize winning, being the best, and coming out
You and your co-workers may not have
grown up in environments that emphasize true
teamwork and collaboration. So, you have to
push a collaborative culture throughout your
Here are some methods our firm has used to
foster a collaborative culture:
• Form teams to solve real work issues and
to improve real work processes. The greater the
impact, the harder the teams will work to ensure that they get it right.
• Hold department meetings to review
projects and progress in order to obtain broad
input and coordinate shared work processes.
When problems arise, as they often will, the
cause frequently is not personalities, but rather that team members haven’t agreed on the
• Celebrate team successes publicly. At my
firm, we do this in a number of ways, including
by awarding Savant Bucks (nonlegal tender
that can be converted into awards, including
travel); by giving recognition on Savantlink,
our private Intranet; and through general announcements by managers.
• Read more about teamwork. Start with
The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork and
The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player,
both by John C. Maxwell. Neither book is new,
but the wisdom found in their pages still holds
true today. FP
Glenn G. Kautt, CFP, EA, AIFA, is a Financial
Planning columnist and vice chairman of Rockford, Ill.-based Savant Capital Management.