In 2014, I left a senior position at a wealth management firm to start my own practice, Wealth Strategies Partners, an independent wealth management practice and member of the Raymond James Financial Network.
Since that time, we’ve grown at a rapid pace as a result of hard work, dedication to our purpose and a little luck. We now rank No. 54 out of 4,500 independent firms that make up the Raymond James network, we’ve expanded in our key markets of Sarasota and Nashville.
While all of this growth sounds exciting (and it has been), it hasn't come without hurdles and lessons learned. These are four of the biggest ones I’ve learned as we’ve grown and built a reputation for what we’re known for today: our client experience.
The right people in the right seats.
Intentional hiring is one of the most effective ways to position your business for success. When I started my practice, my partner and I read the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. The biggest takeaway was getting the right people “on the bus.”
One of the many great hires we made was a professional who worked at our practice’s bank. I built a strong relationship with her and experienced her work ethic and service-oriented mentality firsthand. When we opened a position for a professional with her skillset, I knew who to call. The lesson? Always keep an eye out for future employees, even if you don’t have open positions to immediately fill.
As you build your team, hire slow and fire fast. Take the necessary time to get to know candidates and understand their values. Allow key team members to participate in a multi-stage interview process before making an offer. Once a hire has been made, implement a probationary period to ensure mutual fit. Conversely, let the wrong team members off the bus quickly. Go with your gut when someone does not seem right for a role.
Ask for help and engage the right resources.
Invest in your business by engaging outside expertise to help develop leadership strategies and effective means of reaching business goals. Last year, we engaged a business coach to help us develop thorough client onboarding and off-boarding processes. Our coach also helped us evaluate our employees and assess each person’s strengths and personalities so we could better enable them to excel.
We've also found significant value in the partnership with our public relations and marketing firm. Professional services firms require specialized marketing strategies, and we did not have the resources or bandwidth for this function internally. Our PR firm has helped differentiate us from other offices, promote our expertise in thoughtful way, and solidify our positioning.
Set goals and continuously track them.
Thoughtful goal setting paired with accountability has helped our team members and organization grow. Accountability is crucial. Our team holds goal-setting meetings where we determine goals and lay the groundwork for implementation. We create five-year, annual and quarterly goals. Every goal that’s set is written down and accompanied by an explanation of what’s needed to achieve it and the person responsible for the next action. Before the meeting ends, we schedule a follow-up meeting to review progress.
Goals should be realistic, but do not be afraid to be ambitious. As you start achieving bigger goals, you’ll realize you’re capable of much more than you may have anticipated.
Figure out what you’re really good at and stick to it.
A jack-of-all-trades, master of none does not make a good business owner. If you try to be everything to everybody, you’ll likely fall short of being great at what will set your business and services apart.
Consider what you do best or your primary offering that adds superior value to your customers. After reading “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan (another book I recommend), our team determined our “one thing” is client experience. We became known for how we treat clients, and our culture is now built around maintaining world-class client service. The idea is not that you should only do “one thing” at your business; the idea is that a narrowed focus leads to superior results.
Moreover, focusing on areas of excellence and differentiation allows the best strategies to fall in line. For us, one of the primary cornerstones of superior client experience is an accessible team. Consistent, thoughtful communication is the foundation of our culture. To put this belief into practice, we developed an organized, disciplined communication schedule for each client, and we follow it religiously.
If your business is growing quickly, you’ll likely run into many challenges along the way. Don’t sacrifice what’s important to get to the next milestone faster. Be intentional about making progress, embrace the lessons learned along the way and enjoy the journey.
Paul Allen is president at Wealth Strategies Partners, with offices in Sarasota and Nashville.