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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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There's Still Time to Amplify!

 
 
Finishing The Year Strong. It's Not Too Late To Amplify Results!

 

 

It’s hard to believe we’re already at the end of September and the end of the third business quarter as well. A common theme for September is that it offers a fresh perspective - or a “new year”. Everyone is back from summer holidays, the kids are back to school, and it’s time to reflect on how the year has gone, and how you want it to end.

 

So, how are you doing? This question can be daunting for most advisors to answer because, even if one aspect of your business is thriving, there could be other factors that are demanding your attention and pulling you away from your preferred focus. Also, if we’re frank, most advisors don’t spend enough time working on their business to develop systems for a routine review and to strategize for the future. This realization means you are not equipped to overcome unexpected challenges causing business growth to stall. It can also lead to frustration, stress, and stagnation. Look at the visual below and apply it to your business. Where are you on the S-curve? If you are reaching a breaking point, it could be time to implement something different that will burst you through that ceiling and start you on a new S-curve.

 

 

 

Wait, where’s the “Staples button” because if only it were that easy. When you hire someone new or install new technology or change a process, you trust that it will make      a difference. However, it may be little more than a leap of faith unless you accompany it with talent, procedures, or coaching to support the leap to the next growth curve.

 

So what can be done right now to end the year on a high note? At this late stage, less is more. The best course of action is to reflect on the goals you set at the beginning of the year. Are there any that you identified as integral to the success of the business that are still incomplete? What are your team’s views? Have they identified any items that require your immediate attention? Now is the time to narrow your focus to the critical elements of your original plan. Pick one or two top priorities and implement the necessary changes. Moreover, remember that effective collaboration produces results that are greater than each individual’s contribution. This rule applies to whether you build your team internally  or create a virtual team of external resources. There is still time to amplify your results for 2019.

 

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”

- Charles Darwin

 

To learn more or speak with Pat, email confidence@thepersonalcoach.ca.

 

Are you looking to grow your business? Save the date for our Generator Event! Tuesday November 26, 2019

 

If you want to grow your advisory business, get this date in your calendar!

Tuesday November 26, 2019, Cambridge, ON.

 

This TPC event is for advisors looking to grow their business, double their revenues and achieve time and money freedom. Full event details and sign up information here: www.tpcgenerator.ca.

 

Alison Ottewell is helping advisors to connect and have an online presence.

 

Digital shouldn't be daunting! Creating a digital  Marketing Strategy that works with your business  is realistic and achievable. Engaging videos, compelling blogs and Social Media success is within your reach. Connect with Alison today at confidence@thepersonalcoach.ca.

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Bridging the communication between advisors and their support staff.

Heather Amlin, Operations & Efficiencies Coach

 

I can’t believe it’s been a year since I started with The Personal Coach. Since starting, I have felt blessed to be able to take the time I needed to figure out how to use my “unique abilities” (cue Art Schooley’s voice inside my head) so I can best help guide advisors and their teams. I also have Fortunato Restagno to thank. He speaks to his branding clients about their compelling story which inspired me to discover my compelling story.


I spent many years in the financial services business as a Marketing and Operations Assistant in the trenches. Subsequently, I was a co-business owner of an advisory firm who purchased 2 other advisory firms. Finally, I became an ex-business owner transitioning clients and myself into a new role with our merger. You can imagine the many hats that needed to be worn for the merger to go smoothly.

 

I’ve really enjoyed the challenges of each role. I have especially loved the fact that each role has given me an opportunity to create processes, procedures and work with advisory support teams. It’s something I am passionate about and I enjoy bridging the communication between advisors and their support staff. With that being said, I’ve decided to focus my coaching on developing better operations and efficiencies with advisory teams.


I know first-hand the challenges an advisor has to deal with. It can be challenging to find time to listen to your support staff without distractions. If both the advisor and the staff member(s) are receiving calls, emails and texts, when do you find the time to get ready for meetings, process paperwork, keep an organized office AND create processes and procedures so that things run smoothly? Every advisory firm is unique and different - from the advisor doing it all themselves to the offices with 2-3 advisors and a support team for each. No matter the size, you still need to have processes and procedures in place. Every person in the office should know what those are, even if they don’t have to use each one.

 

I use a back-office checklist, which focuses on technology, administration, client services, and investment and insurance procedures. Reviewing this with advisory teams has led to great discussions around weaknesses in existing processes and identifying where there are no processes at all. We also review strengths and affirm the areas that are running smoothly.

 

As I embark on my second year with TPC, I’ve expanded this process to include the integration of new employees into an advisor’s office. We call it the Coaching for Integration Success Program. One of the challenges of working in small/medium team environments is how to set your new employees up for success as you try to train them in the many areas of your busy office. Having a clear agenda for their first day, their first week, and their first quarter is a great step! So, I keep Kim Poulin’s motto in mind and off I go….”Hire for attitude, train for skill.”

 

If you would like to speak with Heather to discuss in further detail, please contact us at confidence@thepersonalcoach.ca.

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Too many clients or too many non-ideal clients?

A CASE STUDY ON “RIGHT SIZING” YOUR BUSINESS

 

 

I was invited to speak at a dealer conference to discuss the importance of having the right people around you and how to create a great team. All of the attendees at the conference received a complimentary copy of The Personal Coach booklet, The Right Fit, which is a guide to help advisors make great hires.


At the end of the presentation, “George,” one of the attendees, approached me and asked if I could help him with a hiring project. We booked a conference call for the following week so I could learn more about why he felt that he needed to make a hire for his team, which already consisted of four support staff.

 

During our call, George shared with me that because of his large clientele and significant asset book, his current team could not handle all of the transactions and client requests. George had concluded that he needed to hire another team member.


I asked George one of my favourite questions, “Do you have too many clients or do you have too many non-ideal clients?” George had never heard this question before and asked what I meant. I shared with him that, as coaches, we see many advisors like him building a large clientele. However, as they evolve and mature as a financial advisor, many of the clients do not fit their ideal client profile. I suggested to George that before we move forward with a new hire, we complete an exercise called Best Case Scenario from Cotton Systems. This exercise examines the 10 best sales that an advisor has made over the last 6 to 12 months. George agreed to complete this exercise with the help of his team.

 

At our next meeting, I could tell that George, having completed the Best Case Scenario exercise, had experienced an epiphany. He was happy to have spent time reflecting and better understanding who his top clients are and more importantly, was excited to see how we could apply this information to his business model. We used the information from the exercise and completed an Ideal Client Profile (ICP), which we committed to paper. We referred to this for the next exercise by starting to use this ICP as part of our referral/introduction process.

 

I asked George, “Tell me about how you’ve built your contact management system and when it was last updated?” George said that he has a program called Act! and has been using the system for 8 years. I shared with George that a contact management system is not just a technology tool. It needs to be viewed as a business process encompassing 4 steps:

 

  1. Segmentation
  2. Building a relationship management strategy for each segment
  3. Identifying a champion to manage the system
  4. Using technology to manage the process – in this case,
  5. it was Act!

George said, “This is all fine but I really need your help in making a hire.” I said to George that I understood this but before we made a hire, we needed to “right size” his practice. I shared with him a number of stories where we had completed this exercise with advisors with large clienteles and in many cases, the advisor decided to right size the practice and by doing so, decided that he/she did not need to make an additional hire. I asked George to go along with me on this one and work on his contact management system before we discuss hiring. George begrudgingly agreed to take this step. I then showed him some sample customized segmentation scorecards that we had created for other clients and I suggested that we build a customized segmentation scorecard for him. He agreed and we built this scorecard with a particular focus on the following items:

 
  • Size of assets
  • Future potential
  • Coachability
  • How clients value the services
  • The client history of providing referrals
  • Occupation status
  • Family income

One of our support team members at TPC created a scorecard with the above items and a rating system to grade each client from 1 to 5. We had 7 items with the maximum score on each item being 5, which meant that the best client score could be 35. We then created a rating system using the numbers so that we could create 5 different segments – platinum, gold, silver, bronze and lead. I left this exercise for George and his team to complete and within a month, George sent me an email outlining that he had the following clients in each segment:

 

Platinum clients – 21
Gold clients – 147
Silver clients – 101
Bronze clients – 174
Lead clients – 57

 

With this exercise behind us, I arranged to book my next face-to-face coaching meeting with George and asked him to have his employee responsible for booking appointments to join the meeting. This employee, “Kathy,“ is very engaged in the business and was quite intrigued with what we were going to achieve during this meeting.

 

Next, we built a relationship management strategy with each segment. I showed Kathy and George some sample relationship management strategies. We spent the balance of the morning outlining a relationship management strategy that Kathy thought she could implement for each of the segments. Our most concentrated relationship management strategy would be focused on Platinum clients and minimal for Bronze and Lead clients. As part of this exercise, I asked for names of clients that fit in each of these categories so George and Kathy could think about these clients when delivering their strategy. Putting client names to the categories helped us immensely in creating strategies for each segment.

 

The third step in building the contact management system is identifying a champion. Kathy was up for the challenge and she was excited that she had clarity around managing clients going forward.

 

The next step after completing this project was to focus on helping with a new hire. George was no longer as eager to work on this project because he discovered what so many advisors discover after this exercise – he felt that a number of clients should be sold off because they did not fit the ideal client profile and decided he wanted to focus on “right sizing” his business.

 

After having a thorough review of the business, not surprisingly, George and Kathy determined they could sell off 25% of their clientele. This would only reduce their revenue by 10% and then they could focus on bringing in more Platinum and Gold clients. We helped identify advisors that would be interested in buying these clients.

 

At the next meeting, we shared with the full team what we had been doing. After announcing that we had right sized the business, the other team members were in total agreement with selling off 25% of the clientele. Guess what happened next? They decided that adding a new team member was no longer necessary if they pulled the trigger on the sale!


I suggested to George that we take a coaching break and give the team time to implement what we agreed upon. I followed up in six months and George shared with me that he had almost replaced the 10% of lost revenue because he was now focused on his best clients. Additionally, those best clients are providing him with introductions to people just like them. His team is now more energized, has less stress and everyone is feeling like they are running the business whereas previously, they felt like the business was running them.

 

Good advisors do an excellent job of building their clientele but quite often, they do not take the time to review their clientele and see if these clients are a good fit for their current practice. Also, some advisors have “FOMO” - a fear of missing out. In other words, they think that they will miss opportunities if they release some of their non-ideal clients when in fact they will find more opportunities when adding Platinum clients in their place.

 

Please contact us at confidence@thepersonalcoach.ca if you would like to speak with a coach about right sizing your business.

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Creating Effective, Productive Teams

Insights on how a team is using Everything DiSC® Workplace assessments to create business momentum

 

Do you believe one of your biggest assets if not the biggest, is your team? If you said yes, so do we which is why at The Personal Coach, we have a process in place to help teams grow stronger. We use Everything DiSC® profiles from Wiley, which are a personalized, specialized and in-depth analysis used to help individuals develop a broader understanding of themselves, their relationships with team members, explore their own potential and realize unparalleled success.

 

Everything DiSC® profiles help to develop critical business skills such as:

  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Management
  • Sales

In a team building session, we discuss the results of the assessments and when needed, coach people one-on-one to assist with implementing the necessary behavioural changes. We recently received feedback from a valued client of ours who uses DiSC Workplace to manage their large team. Keep in mind that DiSC is for teams of all sizes. In their case, they have many team members with different personalities and profiles. So, they have benefited from understanding each other's personalities to best work with each team member.

 

Our client assigned one team member to be the DiSC® Team Leader to make sure that DiSC was not getting lost in the day-to-day to-dos and was remaining an important aspect of their business that they focused on regularly. 

 

Here is what the DiSC® Team Leader shared with us:

 

THE IMPACT ON THE TEAM, As an organization, it’s the best thing we could’ve done. Since doing the DiSC® profiles for all the team members, we are much more aware and sensitive to each person’s unique communication and work style. We know that different people prefer, and need, different types of communication. We have incorporated DiSC® discussions into our staff meetings every month to make sure team communication and effectiveness remains top of mind for each team member. Since doing DiSC®, it has also motivated us to do even further research on communication styles and working with different styles. We use DiSC® profiles to facilitate better understanding between team members. Sometimes team members with different DiSC® styles can feel like they are not on the “same page” but having another person in the meeting who understands the different styles can help validate people’s feelings and their reactions to certain scenarios. On each employee’s door frame or work station, we have posted “How to Work with Me” so everyone can be reminded about how to work most effectively with their colleagues. The team is encouraged, on a yearly basis, to update this if anything changes in their preferences. We use terms like “Bring out your inner D” (dominance) or “pull it back when communicating with someone who is not a high D.” Not only does everyone know everyone else’s styles but they understand themselves better which only helps team and individual growth.

 

AS THE TEAM GROWS, Whenever we have a new staff member, we have them complete a DiSC® profile. I go through a detailed account of our initial introduction to DiSC, why we went through it and how it’s helped us to better work together and be a more cohesive team. Once the profile comes back, I discuss it with the new hire. Most people, when they get them back, are surprised at how precise the results are. I also order comparison reports for the new hire and for the people who will be working closely with them. It helps me to identify any issues that could potentially come up. It’s a proactive move so I can have conversations with existing staff prior to the new person starting work.

 

We are happy to see the benefits that our clients have realized from working with our coaches and Everything DiSC® profiles. If you are a business leader with a team, big or small, you will benefit from Everything DiSC® profiles combined with coaching.

 

You will discover:

  • what your priorities are at work
  • what you are motivated by
  • what stressors you likely have
  • what people will notice about you
  • what your limitations may be
  • what your communication needs are

 

Your team will:

  • have better communication
  • better understand one another
  • realize increased productivity
  • realize increased performance
  • improve the hiring process
  • leverage each member’s skills

 

Please reach out if you would like any further information. 

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Reduce the Time Suck

Advisors are always looking for tools and methods that can potentially give them more control of their time. Telecommunication is one specific area that can boost productivity. Our Coach Bob King explains

 

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Contributors

Patricia Giesbrecht, Business Coach
3
November 21, 2019
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Fortunato Restagno, Brand Coach
3
November 21, 2019
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Alison Ottewell, Marketing Coach
1
November 21, 2019
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Afsar Shah, Business & Regulatory Coach
6
November 21, 2019
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Bob King, Business Coach
1
August 30, 2019
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Heather Amlin, Operations & Efficiencies Coach
1
June 17, 2019
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Kim Poulin, Business Coach
3
June 17, 2019
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Art Schooley, Business Coach
1
June 17, 2019
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April-Lynn Levitt, Business Coach
3
May 28, 2019
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Kelly Maxwell, Marketing Specialist
8
November 22, 2018
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