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PASSING THE TORCH – PART II Your Successful Succession Strategy  

Advisors specialize in helping clients prepare for life events such as retirement, and counsel them on the prerequisites for reaching their goals.  Having said that, why don’t the 42% of advisors who are within two years of transitioning, have their own financial plan in place?*  Align your succession plan with the long-term strategy of your firm, and , it will become an integral part of your business practice.  Part I of Succession Planning,  https://aeschlapia.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/passing-the-torch-succession-planning-part-i/, briefly outlined the succession strategy; below is an in depth review of the key factors.

EVALUATE THE PRACTICE, DEFINE YOUR GOALS, DESIGN A PLAN

There are multiple ways of passing your practice to others.  The ideal time to coordinate your transition is 10 years; strategy options will decline the longer you wait to implement your succession plan.  There will most likely be changes and adjustments along the way regardless of your time frame and pre-planning; stay flexible in the execution of your plan.

  • Start early as you see your business value increase
  • Use a SWOT analysis to define the structure and goals of your practice by outlining the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
  • Use Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™ to shape your business, ideas and solutions
  • Identify the reputation and legacy you want your practice to establish
  • Identify key roles that require continuity and are essential to your firm’s success
  • Establish a short-term/emergency and long-term succession time-line; initial planning to closing the sale
  • Outline 10, 5, and 1-year milestones to achieve, as well as potential milestones following the transition

You will also want to identify the nature of the sale

Internal

  • Sell your ownership to one or more partner(s) of the practice
  • Sell your ownership to a junior partner who was hired specifically for succession
  • Transfer your practice to a relative

External

  • Sell your practice to a strategic partner in exchange for ownership in the larger firm
  • Sell your practice to a wealth management firm e.g. bank

PREPARE THE PRACTICE FOR TRANSFER

Include your CPA and attorney in this process to council your decisions and efforts as you outline the formalities of the transfer.  Build a succession plan that incorporates events that occur in your practice.  Some areas of focus include:

  • Determine the value of your practice and cultivate these drivers of valuation:  Adequate time for succession, client retention, reliable earnings, normalized earnings and AUM/REV
  • Assess your client segmentations
  • Restructure your organization design if necessary
  • Review and prepare formal documents such as financial statements, business plan, marketing plan, etc.
  • Upgrade your technology platform
  • Hire potential successors or search for external buyers
  • Finalize legalities – non-disclosure/non-solicit agreements, negotiations, possible discounts on sales, corporate structure
  • Create equity participation plans for employees
  • Prepare for mergers, acquisitions, financing
  • Launch new market penetration initiatives
  • Organize transfer of assets

PREPARE YOURSELF FOR TRANSFER

In order to transition from your practice you need to solidify a sense of purpose beyond the transition.  This will eliminate your fears and will sustain your emotional commitment to the transition.

  • Define your role in the practice after the transition– e.g. short-term advisor role, ambassador role that provides emotional connections to long-term relationships
  • Define your personal goals, beyond the practice, by developing interests and securing financial resources independent of your business

PREPARE YOUR TEAM FOR TRANSFER

Communicate the changes to the entire team, as well as memorialize processes and systems that are repeatable and no longer require your supervision  This will create a seamless transition and increase the value of your practice.

  • Delegate your responsibilities to your entire team to reduce the burden on one or two people
  • Collaborate with your team and incorporate their contributions to secure their “buy-in” of the changes
  • Create and document processes, policies, procedures and systems to create confidence for your clients and future buyer(s)
  • Define and refine team roles, responsibilities and job descriptions

CHOOSE YOUR SUCCESSOR(S)

A common misconception is that a succession plan involves only finding a successor for the business owner; however, there is often more than just one role that requires continuity and is essential to the success and growth of your practice.  There is also much debate surrounding the topic of whether you should inform team members if they are in the talent pool for advancement to leadership positions.

In Ironstone’s research, we have found the answer to be quite clear…….Tell Them! This will not only motivate team members to aspire to be a part of the talent pool, it will safeguard you from prematurely losing your top performers to the competition.

  • Determine criteria for welcoming new leadership – e.g. leadership/management ability, cultural fit, shared firm vision
  • Assess personality types and preferences to understand your workforce potential and identify your high-potential employees
  • Be open to having multiple successors fill the shoes of a key role – e.g. changing from a single advisor to a board or committee

DEVELOPMENT, REFINEMENT AND PLANNING

The research is shocking – only 26% of firms have processes in place to develop internal talent.** Defining and designing career paths within your business are essential to combat unnecessary employee turnover.  This process involves mentoring and coaching to prepare high-potential team members for advancement.

  • Continuous evaluation of your current talent will help you recruit and promote from within
  • Develop pools of talent who are at various stages of readiness for promotion or new assignments
  • Support learning through relevant work experiences and daily assignments
  • Identify and develop pools of talent for all critical areas in your organization, not just leadership

PREPARE YOUR CLIENTS FOR TRANSFER

Preparing your clients for the transfer is critical.  You must create confidence for your clients with the new advisor(s) and that they believe their needs and interests are in good hands.  The key is to make your absence a farewell rather than a loss to the business to ensure clients will stay with you through your transition.

  • Develop deep relationships and a communication plan that reaches clients, stakeholders and business partners
  • Inform clients of the succession plan, introduce them to the successors, transfer the relationship
  • Communicate any changes in client account structure, point person, etc.
  • Encourage and ensure that all interaction gravitates to the new leadership before your transition is complete.

IN CONCLUSION

Your successors are at the heart of your achievement!  Groom your practice and invest in successors through realistic developmental expectations of high performing leaders.  At each interval of your plan and your transition, stay realistic and take time to make necessary modifications.  A refined process will secure the chances of exiting with a prosperous outcome for all parties involved.

Strategic business planning includes succession planning.  Creating value for your firm that you can later sell will require that you look at your core values, vision and mission.

Ironstone will assist you with each stage of succession planning and provide tactical approaches to strategic planning, operational and human capital fundamentals that are vital components of successful succession planning.

*2012 AdvisorOne, **2012 IN Adviser Solutions Succession Planning Study

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Begin With The End In Mind

Your succession plan should start when you make plans to open your firm.  If you want to create a purposeful life and path for your career, as you start your business think about what your exit game plan will be.  Regardless of being in the midst of success, if you do not have a succession plan, make it a priority this year. 

How should you start the process?  Think of yourself as replaceable and begin to delegate tasks to others.  Other key questions to answer in developing your succession plan:

  • At what time would you like to transition out?
  • Who will you sell to?
  • When will you make the transition?
  • How will all of these work together?
  • Are annual recurring revenues growing over time consistently or are they up and down and somewhat volatile?
 

Predictability is the preference in appealing a buyer to your firm.  Higher net cash flow and higher recurring revenue will give your firm a higher valuation. 

How long should an exit take?  Each firm is different, however, it can take months to years for the entire succession process.  When pursuing a sale the following steps can take 1 to 2 months per step and are critical in successful succession planning:

  • Preparation
  • Marketing
  • Negotiating
  • Due Diligence
  • Final Transaction
 

 Other considerations to include in your succession plan:

  • Prepare your team & your clients. Make sure your clients will receive the same level or better quality of service that they are currently receiving.
  • Train your clients so they are used to you being out of the office.
  • That the buyer can have a profitable practice.
  • That you will be compensated fairly for your practice.
  • Look for businesses that are compatible with your firm.
  • Is the business a fee-based or commission-based firm?
  • Is the firm financial-planning based or investment-management service based?
  • What is the firm’s client service philosophy?
 

As the owner of your firm, you are sure to be experiencing feelings of loss of control, loss of significance and grief.  Be aware that your team is experiencing an elevated pressure of anxiety if you leave them in the dark.  It is vital to communicate the tactics of your succession plan to your team.   

Purposeful planning is key to the entire succession planning process.  “One of the best things you can do is to work ON the business not just IN the business.”

 We want to hear from you!  Is your succession plan in place?

Contact us for assistance in following the proper steps needed for a successful succession plan.

 

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™! 

  • Strategic Planning
  • Business Development
  • Operational Effectiveness
  • The Human Element

You won’t want to miss our next in the series:  Business Development- Branding & Value Proposition-Does Your Firm Have A Value Proposition?  Learn How To Create A Unique Value Proposition For Your Firm.