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Thinking About a New Company Name?

William Shakespeare penned, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” – but would it be as memorable? We’ve had the opportunity and pleasure to help advisory firms across Canada develop compelling brands and company names. Here we share some tips to help you establish a company name that is both personal to you and memorable to others.

 

Apple, Nike, Mercedes, Amazon, and Google;  these names appear to have nothing to do with the type of business they are in, yet these companies are incredibly successful and are household names. As Sasha Stauss, brand strategist, explains, “Successful businesses are not selling a service they are selling an experience, a sensation, a focused promise, and most of all, a story.” Even if the product or service, like Apple or Mercedes, is expensive, the company will still be very profitable. What makes them successful? For starters, they are entirely in control of how they want you to think.

 

For example, Apple clients believe they are unique and think differently outside of the norm. Mercedes owners believe they perceived as elegant and successful. Even if the car or the phone (remember the iPhone battery debate?) had a reputation for consumer concerns, we would value the brand over any misgivings. As humans, we want to be a part of something that makes us feel good about ourselves.

 

So how do you go about creating a name for your firm? Do not try to explain everything in a company name. A company name is one part of your brand, just as your logo and slogan are elements that serve a specific purpose within your communication strategy. 

 

Be unreasonable in your creative process. Pick a thing, an object, or a feeling that will connect your ideal clients to your promise. A few of the company names we’ve developed for Financial Advisors are Blue Whale, Aurora, Gallery, Arrival, Framework, Forté. These (like Apple, Nike) having nothing to do with industry, but everything with reflecting the team inside the name.

 

Don’t be hesitant to pick a name that supports a theme and uses analogies. A past client, Framework Financial, purchased a custom-designed wire sculpture they call the Vision Frame. They use it to communicate their value. It encompasses both theme cohesion and has a local community feel, which reflects the hometown pride that resonates with clients. 

 

An impactful company name is simply a recognizable or interesting word that sticks in our minds. This is magnified if the name reflects the personality of your business. Reg from Gallery Wealth Management has a passion for nature photography, and since most of his client’s come to his office, they converted it into a photo gallery. When clients arrive, they become part of the brand and culture. How do you think this will positively impact the meeting?

 

Your company name should engage clients to FEEL they are part of something beyond just providing a service.

 

To learn more about branding, go to MasterPoint.ca.

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Shifting Gears

 

From a degree in Geology to a career as a Business Consultant later a Financial Advisor, Sandra Schmidt has always been a master of change. Now, she embraces her most recent endeavor - retirement.

 

A native of London, Ontario, Sandra describes her upbringing as akin to a Norman Rockwell painting. The third of four girls, Sandra, reflects on her childhood as warm and loving. Her father was an actuary with London Life and her mother, trained as a teacher, chose to be a stay-at-home mom, as did many of that generation. Attending church was a big part of Sandra’s childhood, given that her father was a soloist in the choir, and her mother ran the Sunday school. Mostly, Sandra recalls both parents always encouraging their daughters to find their passion, to do it well and to remember that in life, there are no limitations – you can do anything you choose.

 

Inspired by her parents’ words, after Sandra graduated from high school she followed her father’s example and attended university at Western. There she received her Bachelor’s degree in Geology. A short stint in the Arctic, however, convinced Sandra that spending over half of each year in remote locations wasn’t all that appealing. She decided that a business education might be a path to consider and returned to Western, this time as a student in the Business program. It is here she met the love of her life, Duff Schmidt,

who hailed from the Okanagan in British Columbia. By January of the following year, the couple knew wherever they would go; they would go together. When asked how they decided between British Columbia and Ontario, Sandra says, “Duff said he wanted to be where the skiing was, so

away we went to Vancouver!”

 

Almost directly out of school, Duff started with Mutual Life in the Estate and Financial Planning Services (EFPS) area. Sandra accompanied him to various corporate events and conventions, and it was there she began to notice the

opportunities available in the financial services industry. Through the years, Sandra continued to develop close relationships with management at the local branch of what is now Sun Life Financial, who would consistently tell her,

“When you get tired of what you’re doing, come and work for us.” Fast forward five years, Sandra knew it was time for a change and left her role in Strategic Planning consulting and in June 2000, her career as a Financial Advisor began.

 

Though a logical and natural transition, Sandra describes the first few years as an Advisor being “really tough.” Similar to what most advisors experience, Sandra also quickly exhausted her natural market. Prospecting was tough and, in need of people to talk to, she developed a game plan that was strategic and proactive. Scouring her Rolodex, Sandra approached individuals who were well-placed HR managers and could get her in the door for a 45-minute “workplace solutions” presentation. Attendance was high during these

sessions, and Sandra’s genuine approach and willingness to invest her time with clients resonated well and served as a foundation for her future success. At that time, the Financial Centre offered a mentorship program that paired new advisors with more tenured campaigners. It was during this program where Sandra met Al. Al not only served as Sandra’s mentor but soon became her friend and eventual business partner. In 2005, with the

partnership flourishing, they moved to a new location in downtown Vancouver.

 

In 2008, Al was approaching retirement and in the early stage of his succession plan, which included transitioning out of the individual business. Sandra had already been helping to service many of Al’s clients over the past several years; still, the formal transition was a significant change and Sandra felt that she needed some additional guidance and support. She reached out to a colleague who had been in a similar situation who referred her to The Personal Coach. Sandra says she has always treated her business like a business, but working with Juli Leith offered her a very different perspective on how best to organize, structure and manage her practice. This new relationship eventually led to an even higher level of success for Sandra. “Working with Juli ensured that I didn’t simply double how hard I worked just

because I had doubled my business” Sandra reflects. With her business bustling, ensuring her work-life balance became an even more significant challenge and necessity. At the end of each busy day, Sandra would come home, kick off her heels and sit on the floor in the kitchen and talk to her dog, Molly. “I would tell her all about my day - she won’t share my secrets.” Sandra’s business would continue to grow and flourish and the next 11 years flew by.

 

During the summers, Sandra and Duff would take some much-needed downtime to recharge their batteries. In 2017, Sandra found that she was growing increasingly less enthusiastic about returning to work. That’s when she knew it was time to start thinking about and planning for her succession strategy. Sandra’s daughter, Leigh, had worked for Sandra’s team as a summer student while studying business at the University of Victoria. Also, Leigh had covered a year of maternity leave for one of the staff. When asked if she would consider becoming an advisor, Leigh replied: “no thanks” – déjà vu from when Sandra was first asked! Leigh and her husband John followed their dreams and moved to New Zealand for two years for John to pursue a degree in winemaking. After returning to Canada, they settled in the Okanagan wine region, and Leigh decided the timing was right and pursued a career as a Sun Life Advisor. She has since taken on Sandra’s Okanagan clients as well as Lower Mainland clients Leigh was already supporting. The balance of her business transferred to colleagues whom Sandra had worked with for years. Citing as the vital element to choosing a successor, “We  already had a great rapport, I knew who they were and what their values were. I knew my clients would receive the same level of integrity and respect

as I had shown them”. Sandra is so proud of Leigh and the Vancouver advisors. After her clients had moved to their respective new advisors, Sandra stayed on for three months to ensure it was a smooth transition. In May of 2019, Sandra officially retired. She has since run into former clients and receives emails and cards saying thank you for picking such great advisors to carry on the legacy.

 

Receiving accolades from her clients isn’t surprising. You only have to hear Sandra speak about her time as an advisor to understand how she cherished the relationships she built. She had several families where she serviced four generations! In her own words, Sandra shares, “It is such a privilege and

honor to participate in a small way in a family’s life – and with such an intimate topic. To be a steward is such an honor”. Reflecting on one family in particular, Sandra can’t help but become emotional. In 2004, the file of two clients was passed on to her - a husband and wife. Eventually, she gained the business of his mother, and then their children and grandchildren, too. One year, Sandra noticed a change with the wife; that she didn’t seem herself. It was then, when the client was in her early 50’s, that she received a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s. Amid this turmoil, it was comforting that the planning work done with Sandra allowed the husband to take his retirement early to care for his wife up until her passing. When asked what her guiding principle is, Sandra humbly shares, “you must have a solid sense of what is right and wrong. Be kind to one another and do the right thing. Show up when you’re supposed to show up and mostly, be the advisor you’d like to have”. What started as an attraction to business turned into a genuine love for people. “I had no idea how much I would fall in love with the clients. It was never about me; it was always about them”. For anyone thinking about becoming an advisor, Sandra shares the following sage advice “be prepared for the roller coaster. It’s not easy, and there are two tracks on the roller coaster; emotional and financial – they go hand in hand. Know what an honor it is. Clients will tell you things they won’t share with others; it’s all about trust”.

 

“What we do as advisors matters.”

 

Since May, Sandra has been enjoying every moment of retirement. She reflects, “I used to hear from retired people and they would tell me how busy they were, and I wondered, how can they be so busy? I don’t wonder that anymore!” With Duff also retiring in the Fall of 2018, their days are spent

enjoying the outdoors, loving time with their expanding family, reconnecting with friends, traveling and truly living in the present.

 

Sandra, on behalf of The Personal Coach, congratulations on a magnificent career and your retirement!
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Mergers & Acquisitions: A Roadmap to Maximizing Value

 

The most frequently asked questions I get asked by advisors who are thinking about acquiring a book of business are – ‘Where do I start? And what steps should I take to ensure that I’ll be successful?’ Advisors are right to be concerned because most acquisitions involving professional services firms (anywhere from 70-90%) fail to achieve their pre-acquisition objectives. Whether it is a lack of strategic planning, poor integration planning, failure to pay attention to risk management, culture clashes, or spending too much, the truth is, acquisitions are hard to get right.

 

Set out below are 6 “must-do” best practices that will help you create value and increase the likelihood of your success when acquiring a book of business.

 

1.    Understand Your ‘Why’

It is imperative that you start by clearly understanding what is driving your desire to make an acquisition. What are the outcomes and benefits that you hope to achieve? Whether it is to reposition your client base, enter into a new market, or simply to acquire additional assets for greater scale and increased revenue, understanding your ‘why’ will bring clarity and focus to your M&A strategy. It will ensure that your M&A strategy aligns with your vision and the strategic direction that you have set for your firm. It will also create a set of criteria for you to evaluate the merits of a particular opportunity and enable you to identify the profile and characteristics of your ideal target firm. Given the cost, time, resources and personal commitment required, you cannot afford to start your M&A journey by heading in the wrong direction.

 

2.    Assess the State of Your Business

Prior to going to market, every advisor should first ask themselves a fundamental question: ‘Is my business truly ready to take on another book?’ Buyers who go to market before their business is ready are more likely to destroy value than create it. So take a hard look at your business and make sure that your workflows, processes and procedures are efficient, scalable and align with regulatory requirements. Make sure that you have a team in place that can help you to integrate and service a new book and continue to maintain your existing clients. Integrating a new book onto a business platform that is less than rock-solid is asking for trouble. In today’s market, sellers have choices, and they are looking for buyers who can offer their clients the most value. So lay the foundation for a successful acquisition by ensuring the strength of your business model and service platform.

 

3.    Valuation – Don’t Rely On “Rules of Thumb”

Too many advisors rely on industry ‘rules of thumb’ (ie, a multiple of revenues or percentage of assets) when attempting to value a target firm. Do not fall into this trap. The actual value of a firm is not merely a multiple of revenues or a percentage of assets. Several key factors tend to drive value in every advisory business, including strategic and cultural fit, quality of the client base, recurring vs. non-recurring revenues, transition risk, goodwill (or enterprise value), and regulatory risk. Make sure you do your due diligence and assess these factors if you want to determine the true value of a target firm and prior to putting together your offer.

 

4.    Pay Attention To Deal Structure

Every advisor spends much time focused on valuation and purchase price but relatively little on deal structure and how that purchase price is to be paid. While the purchase price is critical, it is very often the deal structure that determines whether a deal gets done. Most deal structures are comprised of three components: an initial (non-refundable) down payment, a financing repayment stream, and an adjustment to the purchase price if a minimum amount of assets fail to transition to the buyer. How these three elements are negotiated and structured will impact each parties’ perception as to the value of the deal, the buyer’s ability to pay for the deal and, therefore, whether a deal is made. It is also a key way for the parties to allocate risk in the transaction.

 

5.    Create a Joint Transition Plan

Every acquisition will ultimately be judged by the amount of client assets that transition from seller to buyer. The key to every successful acquisition is a well-designed and robust transition plan that maps out the roles and responsibilities of both parties, a precise client segmentation and communication strategy, the role of staff members, and key integration milestones and timelines. The more detail, the better. Do not underestimate the value of a well thought out transition plan. It may be the most important thing that determines the overall success of an acquisition. Start discussing transition planning shortly after you have completed your due diligence and agreed on the price. Make sure you finalize your transition plan before entering into a purchase agreement. You want to ensure that you hit the ground running as soon as possible.

 

6.    Consider Non-traditional Strategies

There are different acquisition strategies you can employ to achieve your goals and objectives. Too many advisors lock themselves into a particular way of thinking about how acquisitions are done. They tend to believe every acquisition results from knocking on the door of a 65 year-old advisor waiting to sell his or her business. This is not usually the case. Broaden your thinking to include non-traditional strategies that can create opportunities where none might have existed. If you have a strong business model and service platform in place, you are in a position to offer a potential seller something more than just a down payment and a promissory note. You can offer them continuity, a safe haven for themselves and a viable option for their clients, all of which are very much in demand in today’s market. Having an open mind can lead you down a different path but towards the same objective.

 

If you are considering acquiring a book of business and want to increase the likelihood of your success, make sure you incorporate these ideas as part of your acquisition process. They will be foundational to your success.

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Value of Advice

You deserve your commission and fees for your professional advice. What’s the best strategy to communicate that to clients? Our Coach Art Schooley and Strategic Partner Leo Pusateri have some tested solutions that work

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