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Succession Planning in Proper Perspective

Perspective is a powerful thing.


Whether it be in connection with personal relationships, dealing with financial matters, or developing a strategy for your business, the ability to effectively assess and interpret the relative importance of events, objects and concepts is exceedingly important and valuable.


Having proper perspective enables us to see things more clearly. It shapes our thoughts, emotions, and actions, and can greatly impact our overall wellbeing. On the other hand, a lack of perspective can create angst, confusion, and make it harder to act.


A client of mine once said to me that while he understood and agreed with the concepts and definitions for Succession, Exit and Contingency planning, he didn’t clearly understand the interrelationship or relative importance of each of the concepts.


He asked me: are these concepts meant to work together or in isolation of each other? If they are meant to work together, what would that look like?


This advisor was seeking a form of perspective or mental model to help him better understand the concept of Succession Planning and how to develop a Master Plan for his business.


Here’s what I shared with him.


A comprehensive Master Plan for every advisor’s business should incorporate each of the concepts of SP, EP and CP, and do so in accordance with following hierarchy.



Perspective is everything with succession planning

It Starts with Succession Planning


Advisors should ideally start their Master Planning process by thinking of and developing an internal transfer of ownership, leadership and management of their business.


Why do I suggest this?


Because, first off, most advisors I know derive greater satisfaction and fulfillment from thinking about how to grow their business rather than thinking about how to sell it to a 3rd party and exiting the industry.


My experience has been that more advisors will be more likely to act if it means putting in place a plan to grow their business and drive sales and revenues.


(If you’ve been reading some of my previous articles you know that Succession Planning is at its core a growth strategy).


Secondly, by starting with SP, you will not only lay the foundation for additional growth to your business but, as importantly, a well-thought-out SP will form the basis of your CP.


By having a junior advisor (or advisors) in place to one day transfer ownership, leadership and management of your business, you are putting in place the person (or people) that will continue to operate your business should something unforeseen happen to you.


And here’s the key point - if you hire effectively and bring in the right people you will also be putting in place the foundation for your eventual Exit plan and retirement. You follow me?


Whenever you choose to retire or simply slow down, you have already got in place the person (or people) who will one day acquire your business and continue to run your business…service your clients…maintain your staff…and enable you to maximize the value of your life’s work.


This is the beauty of starting with SP.


Now, if for whatever reason, your strategy does not go exactly as planned over time – say, for example, your juniors don’t wish to or can’t afford to acquire all or part of the business, or if you have second thoughts about selling all or part of your ownership interest to them, then you can always choose to sell to or merge with an external 3rd party and have that be your Exit plan.


The key point here (and what this kind of perspective represents) is that a sale to a 3rd party should be your fallback position, not your starting position.


Some additional points and thoughts for you to consider.


  • First, starting your Master Plan by thinking internally and developing a SP makes a ton of sense unless of course you’re at an age and stage of your career where you are already thinking about retirement and exiting your business or where you don’t have sufficient time (i.e. at least 3-5 years) to implement a SP.

  • Secondly, until such time as you have your SP in place and the right people in place to run your business in the event of a random or unplanned event, then you really do need to ensure that you have a CP in place for your business.


With this kind of perspective, when you start to think about your Master Plan, you realize very quickly that it is very much a process and not an event.  


Just as importantly, it’s a process that takes time and careful planning and it doesn’t just happen a couple days before you want to make some changes to your business and your life.


This kind of perspective and process is arguably the best way for any advisor to continue to grow their business, protect what they’ve built, realize full value for their business, and ensure the well-being of their clients, staff and family.


So how did that change in perspective and mindset work out for my client?


 

Rick was 47 when we started working together in 2019. He was managing $85M in assets for close to 200 households. His firm consisted of himself and one administrative assistant.


He wanted to grow his business to $250M in AUM over the next 5 years but knew that he didn’t have the capacity to do so on his own and he had no clear vision for the business beyond that. He expressed frustration with the many different and competing demands on his time and expressed the desire to one day gear down and spend more time doing what he enjoyed most - working with his top clients and providing them with financial solutions to complex problems - but he didn’t really believe that that was feasible.


In the summer of 2019, Rick felt stuck and was at a crossroads with no sense of direction.

He was concerned about the long-term prospects for himself and his business and realized that he was at the age and stage of career when he needed to give serious thought to the next 10-15 years of his career.  

We discussed at length the need for a master plan to increase the value of his business and position himself for long-term success and fulfillment.


Armed with the proper perspective, he bought into the notion of starting his planning process by developing a SP.


He hired a junior advisor at the end of 2019, an individual who was bright, hard-working, ambitious and full of promise. This created capacity for growth and a CP option and created the foundation for a long-term Exit plan. In 2020, the firm grew to over $100M in AUM and added another junior advisor and admin assistant in anticipation of potential acquisition opportunities.


Fast forward to early 2023 and having completed a mid-sized acquisition the year previous, the firm closed in on $200M in AUM with the platform to support additional growth and provide Rick a more balanced lifestyle. He had built a promising team and laid the groundwork for not only additional growth but the future transfer of ownership, leadership, and management of the business on a timeline and terms that aligned with his definition of personal success.


Rick was sitting pretty, right? Not quite. The team was still very young and, though very capable, not quite ready to acquire and manage the business if, say, he was to get hit by a bus tomorrow. They still needed a couple years of additional seasoning, so Rick still needed to develop an interim CP to help cover the next 2-3 years.


Rick approached a trusted friend and colleague in his area who agreed that if something happened to Rick in the next 2 years, he would help manage certain parts of the business and continue to mentor members of the team until such time as they were ready to manage the business on their own.


Now all the pieces of the puzzle are in place. At 52, Rick is freed up to continue to think big and take his business to the next level in terms of increased growth and valuation. He has plans to double his firm size over the next 3-5 years and add additional team members to his business. He is more excited and passionate about the business and his own future than ever before. He’s also thrilled about what this new strategy and his plans mean for his clients, his staff and his family.


This is one example of the power of having the proper perspective on Succession Planning. Rick used his newfound perspective to completely re-imagine and rethink his vision and strategic plan for not only his business but also his role in the business and his life.


If you’re interested in learning more about TPC’s approach to strategic planning and how to create your firm’s Master Plan, please feel free to reach out me directly at afsar@thepersonalcoach.ca.


Till then...


Afsar




Did you understand the difference between the planning concepts before reading this article?

  • Yes - I did.

  • No - This has been enlightening.


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