Operating as a sole proprietor works well in many industries, but it may not be ideal for financial planners. Lacking the support of a team, most advisors who are solopreneurs hit the wall at some point and must decide between two options if they wish to get to the next level: building up their own firms or joining an existing firm.
The tipping point typically occurs when advisors who work alone or perhaps have a small support team realize they have to sacrifice something—marketing for new business or serving their existing clients—to stay afloat. It’s usually marketing that takes a hit, which means the growth of the business is going to stall, as will the advisor’s job satisfaction.
What follows is the story of an advisor we’ve been talking to about joining our team. (His name has been changed to protect his identity.) As of this writing, he’s still resisting change. After reading his tale, ask yourself what you would do if you were in his shoes. If you are in his shoes, you might want to consider your options for moving forward.
Meet Eric. He started his financial planning business on a part-time basis, to supplement the income he earned as a policeman. He’s since retired, but he now finds himself fighting another kind of battle: he’s working too hard and not making much money, taking home less than 25% of revenues, a figure that when applied to value results is a profit margin of zero.
Eric has two employees: his wife, who is probably underpaid, and a junior advisor. He participates in a radio program that provides him with plenty of referrals, but most are small clients with limited assets. The time it takes to service all these clients is significant, so Eric finds himself in a labor-intensive situation that leaves him unable to be a rainmaker. He’s operating under a business model that is not sustainable.
What can Eric do? We discussed two options with him: segmenting his business to possibly divest himself from the bottom 50% of his clients, or joining a firm like ours. Doing the former would free him up to secure new, more profitable clients, but it isn’t a given that would happen; he’d remain saddled with significant overhead (a fancy office, an expensive phone system, a junior advisor who’s being overpaid, etc.); and he might end up at the same crossroads down the line. Conversely, by doing the latter, he would align himself with a firm that has an economic interest in getting him where he wants to go; he could focus on his areas of strength and have a professional team at his disposal to handle other functions, such as administration.
If Eric is happy in his current situation, there’s no reason for him to make any changes. Given his acknowledgement of his struggles, we hope he seriously considers making a move. We know this is not an easy decision—he has to let go of the security blanket that is his current business and sign up for the unknown—but the potential rewards are considerable.
WorthPointe’s founder faced a decision like Eric’s many years ago, when he chose to start a firm rather than continue to toil alone. He’s gone from being a solopreneur to running a 17-person operation where advisors are owners as well as financial planners, and he really enjoys showing advisors like Eric how to progress and realize their career dreams.
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