Finding the Right Fit
Building a firm that inspires pride
Adam Brooks and Lee Eisenberg love to go to work in the morning.
The founders and managing partners of ABLE Financial Group in Scottsdale, Ariz. envisioned creating a firm that was bigger than the both of them and would continue to thrive after Brooks and Eisenberg leave the business. Adding advisors to their firm is key to building a long-lasting firm, but Brooks and Eisenberg aren’t interested in growth for growth’s sake. They’ve worked hard to build a firm that inspires pride in both employees and clients and are adamant that anyone who joins ABLE Financial Group has to be happy in their firm’s culture.
“We’re not looking to bring in just anybody,” says Brooks. “It has to be a good fit for them and for us. We have a practice that we are excited to come to every morning. We don’t want to ruin that.”
Brooks and Eisenberg launched ABLE Financial Group in May 2006. Today, the firm’s five advisors (including Brooks and Eisenberg) and three full-time support staff manage $250 million in assets for about 450 mass affluent households with an average of between $500,000 and $1.5 million in investable assets. The firm’s sweet spot is helping clients through a wide variety of transitions, whether it be retirement, divorce, death of a spouse, or sale of a business.
Eisenberg explains that the partners enjoy working with clients dealing with a major life change because they feel can make a real difference in their clients’ lives. “At the end of the day, we know that we are adding value by guiding our clients’ through transition,” he says.
Not only do the partners and their advisors and staff feel good about what they accomplish for clients, they have been rewarded with steady revenue growth of about 12% per year.
The key to adding advisors is to be open to possibilities from many sources, clearly define what you are looking for and what you offer, and developing an infrastructure and process that can support growth.
Brooks and Eisenberg offer the following recommendations to independent advisors looking to grow their firms by adding advisors.
1. Spread the Word
Brooks and Eisenberg cast a wide net for advisor candidates. They let their wholesalers and centers of influence know that they are looking to add advisors. They spread the word to colleagues at wire houses. They even ask their clients if they know of anyone who may be a fit. “Our clients like to see that we are growing and they want to feel a part of that growth,” explains Eisenberg.
ABLE Financial Group also partners with a team of recruiting and transition experts, crediting Wells Fargo Financial Advisor Network (FiNet) with the firm’s most recent advisor hire. “FiNet recognizes that we are serious about growth and they offer programs such as their Business Development initiative that coordinates with our recruiting efforts. They even make calls on our behalf to other advisors about opportunities at our firm,” says Brooks.
2. Be Prepared to Kiss a Some Frogs
Brooks and Eisenberg meet with anyone who expresses an interest in a new business opportunity even if a fit isn’t readily apparent. Says Eisenberg, “Many conversations don’t lead to an offer, but we are open for discussions.”
As independent business owners, Brooks and Eisenberg have the freedom to structure an offer creatively. “We don’t need to fit someone into a box but can create an environment that is beneficial for them and for us,” says Eisenberg.
For example, wirehouses have a rigid retirement timeline that includes a set payout structure and client transition plan. ABLE Financial Group not only offers a retirement package that Brooks and Eisenberg say is more financially generous than a typical wirehouse package, but they can create a phased retirement plan based on advisor desires. An advisor may choose to work only one or two days per week or work only with a subset of clients. “We can be much more flexible and allow an advisor to retire on their own terms,” says Eisenberg.
3. Develop Your Ideal Advisor Profile
Because ABLE Financial Group is still relatively small, the firm doesn’t yet have the resources to train advisors who are brand new to the business. Instead, Brooks and Eisenberg look for early-career advisors regardless of age who can bring enough existing clients with them to sustain them financially until they can build a book with ABLE Financial Group.
They also look for advisors who want to get back to having fun in their careers. “A lot of advisors are burned out or feeling squeezed and want more freedom to conduct business the way they want to and have more of an impact on clients,” says Brooks. “We have created an environment that is entrepreneurial and exciting and we are looking for advisors who will thrive in this culture.”
4. Define Your Value Proposition
Although Brooks and Eisenberg can be flexible in how they structure an advisor offer, they believe it is critical to be specific about your value proposition. “Don’t just say ‘We can make this work,’” says Eisenberg. “It’s better to be clear about your value proposition so an advisor can make a more informed decision about whether or not to accept your offer.”
5. Invest in Staff and Infrastructure
To facilitate as smooth a transition as possible, Brooks and Eisenberg make sure that their support staff and environment can support additional capacity. “We staff up first and then bring on an advisor,” explains Brooks. The firm even relocated to larger office space in anticipation of bringing on more advisors.
6. Partner for Transition
ABLE Financial Group’s structured transition process is one key to their successful onboarding of advisors, says Eisenberg. The firm works closely with FiNet to create a consistent transition process that works for their firm. FiNet provides support throughout the recruiting and transition process, even offering transition capital for qualified advisors.
“FiNet has been a great partner and has created programs dedicated to growing your firm with additional advisors,” says Brooks. “FiNet also makes it easy for us to share best practices with other firm owners.”
7. Be Patient
Although Brooks and Eisenberg love being independent business owners, they realize that independence is not for everyone. They recommend taking the time to talk to a lot of potential candidates. “Be patient. It takes longer than you think to find the right fit,” says Eisenberg, adding that hiring the first advisor builds momentum that makes the next hire easier.
Brooks and Eisenberg share a desire to build a long-lasting, sustainable business and they continue to explore new growth opportunities, including acquiring a firm. The possibilities are endless. “We are students of how to grow our firm. We want to keep learning how to build our firm in a way that is right for us,” say Brooks.
For more information on how Wells Fargo Financial Advisor Network can help you grow your firm by adding advisors, contact your regional director or associate regional direct. Ask about joining an upcoming Recruiting in a Box conference call. Call 866-485-5383 or visit wfafinet.com.