Quinn Arnold, and Jean and Eric Mote recently merged their financial planning practices in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Jean and Eric knew that they wanted to start building a succession plan for their business, but were apprehensive to partner with just any financial planner. They wanted to make sure that they found an advisor who was the right fit – who had the same values, and who followed the same financial planning practice

Ultimately, Jean and Eric approached Quinn, another advisor in the Cedar Rapids area. They had outsourced planning work to Quinn in the past and through conversations and networking knew that they’d be comfortable working alongside him in caring for their clients until they chose to retire.

Jean, Eric, and Quinn leveraged services from FP Transitions for their merger. FP Transitions helped them move through the merger seamlessly, and think through everything that each of their businesses would require as they combined forces. They also chose to work with a coach for a short period of time to align their vision.

Between the three of them, they had to work through the merger process, which included everything from merging AUM and planning clients, to navigating different planning software that each practice had used individually. Right off the bat, this team had to make some big decisions – but they didn’t view that as a downside. In fact, they felt like the merger provided them each with an opportunity to look for the most efficient way to serve their clients and run their new, combined firm.

In this episode, you’ll hear about what spurred Jean and Eric to pursue a merger and build out a succession plan, and how these three advisors combined their practices while still providing exceptional client services.

 

 

 

What You’ll Learn:

  • What a firm merger could look like for you as an advisor
  • How to pursue merging with another firm as an advisor
  • Why you might be interested in merging firms
  • How to merge your firms effectively while still prioritizing client relationships
  • How to respond when a client asks about the future of your business
  • The importance of building a succession plan in your business

 

FPA

XYPN

NAPFA

The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by John Bogel

CFP Board

 

Show Transcript

Episode Transcript


Matt: Well Quinn, Eric, and Jean, thank you so much for joining us today. We’re really excited to have you on the podcast.

Jean: Thank you.

Eric: Yep.

Quinn: Thanks, Matt.

Matt: Awesome. Why don’t we just go ahead, and Quinn, we’ll start with you. Why don’t you tell us a little bit more about your career path, and how you got to where you are currently, in your professional life.

Quinn: This is a little bit of a round about way. I am one of those career changers that came to the profession later in my working career, or mid-way, I guess. I worked for about 20 years in corporate consulting and corporate finance. Was actually looking for a financial planner, just after my wife and I had been talking with friends about somebody they used in another state. I looked around my area, we’re in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Reached out to Jean and Eric, and that’s how we had med these several years ago, now.

Quinn: Although I wasn’t a good fit for the practice, in terms of being a client… They were practicing some good target market focus, and being choosy about which people they were taking at that point in their practice. We did stay in contact, and they convinced me, very gently, that this was a great profession to get into, and that I could make a go of it.

Quinn: From there, I started looking around at what financial planning involved, how could I be involved in this profession but still stay in the area. Decided that I wanted to open my own RIA. I had joined FPA. I joined XY Planning Network, and got a lot of support from Eric and Jean, also, as we’re doing the start of the business.

Quinn: Then three years ago, opened an RIA. Slowly started growing that business from there. Then after that, I have now, actually just last year, Jean and Eric and I teamed up and we merged our practices. That’s the very fast version here. I’m sure we can dig into a few details as we go, though.

Matt: Wow. That’s very interesting. You went from rejected client to firm owner?

Quinn: I guess so. Yeah. I had my revenge.

Matt: That’s hilarious. I’ve never actually heard of that one before.

Quinn: It was a little more gentle than that, Matt. But yeah, I guess you could say that was part of the path.

Matt: That’s great. Great. Eric and Jean, why don’t you tell me a little bit more about your story, and how you ended up having your own firm. It sounds like you had some great success there in targeting marketing. Tell us a little bit more about that journey.

Eric: My background was telecommunications, on the technical side. I worked for the Bell system, back when that was in existence. As changes started to happen to that side of the industry, I moved to a startup company called Teleconnect. They were providing long distance re-sale support. That’s where Jean and I met.I went in on the technical side of that. Jean came into customer service, and we grew with that company through some really terrific growth years.

Eric: Then telecommunications started to change. Our company was bought. We became part of various mergers. As things continued like that, it became more and more clear that part of our job was to start letting people off, consolidating the business, and looking at the budget side. We ended up in a situation where we were laying off a lot of employees, friends. That just wasn’t the right kind of thing for us to be doing.

Eric: We started looking around for something else to do. We ended up laying ourselves off. Both of us laid ourselves off to save some slots for existing employees. We started searching for a small business to either start or purchase.

Eric: We ended up finding NAPFA, as the only providers. We looked at NAPFA members for the potential to either work with them as clients, or to figure out just what we could do to become more involved in that type of industry, in financial planning.

Eric: Along the way, NAPFA had a national conference in Minneapolis. We were close in Cedar Rapids, within driving distance. We had some NAPFA members encourage us to attend that conference. We met another fee-only planner in Iowa and had him mentor us for a period of time. Then decided to open our own shop in January 1, 2001.

Eric: We started up without our CFPs, which we would not advise anyone to do again. Grew the business from that point, primarily bringing in some friends, and prior co-workers, and people from telecommunications.

Jean: At the first conference we went, met a fee-only advisor in Iowa City. We interned with him. Almost the first thing he advised us to do was to join FPA and become part of the financial planning community, which was a good move for us as well.

Jean: Because we had so much support from other advisors, we made part of our mission to help career-changers, or people who were considering especially fee-only financial planning. It was mentioned on our website. We have participated in a great many startups, and done what we could to support the industry as a whole.

Jean: We were pretty practiced at helping other people get their ADVs going on figuring out how to start a practice by the time we met Quinn. He just kind of fell victim to our enthusiasm.

Matt: I would say he fell victim in the best way possible.

Jean: Right.

Quinn: It’s good to mention as part of your story, Jean and Eric, too, that you had a bad experience with a broker who was not providing financial planning advice to you. That helped to form some of your passion in the early days, and certainly has stuck with you, too. I think that really was a big motivator, was you wanted to be a better kind of advisor than some of the advice that you had received.

Eric: That’s right. We did have some issues with what we thought to be our trusted financial planner, our trusted financial advisor. During that period when we had laid ourselves off and we were searching for our next career, we discovered some of the things that had been done, as far as churning with our assets, and the type of commissions were not transparent. And the fact that our planner, broker, was really not providing anything for us, other than investments. He really didn’t even have a plan around that. We knew there had to be a better way, and that was really part of our search, and the way that we found NAPFA.

Jean: Eric found the John Vogel book and just became a zealot about low-cost investing, and commission free investing. That played a big role, as well, in getting us on the right path.

Matt: Again, we kind of have this experience where we noticed there was a problem, or something didn’t quite fit us. We went and solved the problem by starting a business. Eric, I know you mentioned you wouldn’t start a business again without the CFP. Can you go a little deeper into that?

Eric: The CFP, which we started studying for our CFP a couple of different times, and business got in the way. We started the business by getting our Series 65. That was the way we opened the door. The CFP provides a lot of credibility, and it provides such good, broad-based training, just studying to just sit for the exam.

Eric: Part of our encouragement now, with any new people that are thinking about getting in the business, is to really push the CFP mark. To get them involved and get them studying early. To let them know just how important it has been to us to have obtained the mark and be able to use it.

Jean: Eric calls it encouraging. I tend more just to nag people into it, as Quinn can tell you. We were fortunate to have people who cared enough about us and our future in the practice, to really stay very involved in nagging us into getting our CFPs. We absolutely pay it forward. It has been significant in every planner’s career that we have helped direct that way.

Matt: Obviously, as you guys have alluded to, there has been a merger here. Why don’t we get a little bit more into how that merger came to be, from both sides. What were you looking for? How did this all make sense on paper?

Eric: For us, we have been in business, I guess 18, 19 years at this point. We’re getting up in age. I like to describe it as, we have a limited shelf-life in the business. Our clients and prospects would sometimes says to us, “How much longer are you guys going to remain in the business?”

Eric: We have given them a couple different answers. One was that we had just obtained office space a few years ago, and we’d taken out a five year lease with two five-year extensions beyond that. The other way, “We love what we’re doing. We have a lot of clients how have become friends, and friends who have become clients.” We wanted to make sure that they were taken care of for the future.

Eric: That coupled with several inquiries from other planning firms who had approached us on buying our practice, got us to thinking that…

Eric: First of all, most of the other planning firms that had approached us, we didn’t like either the way they did business, or their attitude, or just a number of things. Thought that we needed to feel comfortable enough with whoever merged with our practice, bought our practice, that we personally would enter into an agreement with them where they become our financial planners. We explored a couple of situations with some of those folks that had approached us, and pretty much backed away from them. We just didn’t get a good vibe on how things were going.

Eric: Jean and I finally got down to talking about, what would we really want in a firm that would become part of our business, and eventually become our business? Quinn came to mind. He was the person in the area that we knew his abilities in practicing financial planning. His people skills and personality were all things that we felt would appeal to our clients, and certainly appeal to us.

Eric: We walked away from those other inquiries, and we contacted Quinn and asked him to consider whether he would be interested in, in essence, merging and taking over this practice. He was just the right person that we knew that would be right for this business, and that would frankly get along well with the diverse client-base that we have.

Eric: To this point of the merger, we have not lost a single client in transition. We have signed the same agreement with Quinn that our clients sign with Quinn when he came in. We are his clients. We pay the same fees that our other clients pay. We are excited to have somebody as good as he is to help guide us through our retirement, when we decide to actually leave the business, or become less involved.

Matt: Had you thought about the future of the business until your clients started asking you what the future of the business would be, since you were reaching retirement age?

Eric: Yes, we had. It is the topic of a lot of conference sessions. It’s a topic of discussion within the local FPA chapter, as well as NAPFA. We had thought about it, but it’s kind of an easy thing to ignore until you really realize how important it is to make sure your clients are well taken care of, and that the future has a transition method by which they will be taken care of. We had been thinking about it, but we were immersed in how busy we were. It was pretty easy to just push that off.

Quinn: I think I can jump in a little bit. My back is getting so much sore from so much patting on it. This makes me feel pretty good at the beginning of the day.

Quinn: Eric and Jean are very gracious, always, with clients and colleagues, and everything, too. They’ve built something that is of value, too. They were not sole proprietors in the sense of they had each other. We also have an administrative assistance. They were certainly working on a very healthy and active practice.

Quinn: Also, in the sense of, they’re not part of a multi-advisor firm, so I do think you start to think about, “What can happen to this business?” As we think about frequently, we are the business. It’s the client’s value to us is because we’re their advisor. If we’re not here, or if they’re not satisfied, there’s no value.

Quinn: That’s something I think a lot about, now, as an owner of a larger practice. I had a very small practice coming into the merger. That is definitely on my mind, and was on all three of our minds as we were going through the merger. That what I was buying is really client good-will. You ask clients to sign with the new firm, and you try to make it easy for them to say yes. It’s still something they have to say yes to, and be happy with.

Quinn: Jean and Eric have done a phenomenal job, I think, of making this an easy transition for clients. They’re still very active, day-to-day, in the practice, and I think are successfully starting to pull back a little bit. Or at least make time for other things in their lives, while still coming in and doing good, solid work.

Quinn: It’s something where you have to spend the time with clients. Especially with our key clients, you need to spend a significant amount of time making sure everybody’s happy; and that this is something that can continue with the next generation, which is me in this case. We’re conscious of that, a lot, and trying to make the value for clients be clear.

Quinn: I think we’ve taken, even, some steps where we think like, “Okay, what’s something we can do for somebody now, just to show the excitement of the merger?” Like, “What’s a little thing we could talk to them about to keep people engaged, make sure they know that we’re thinking about them?” That’s important to us.

Matt: Right. Quinn, you had said there, ultimately the client has to say yes. What were some of the concerns that you had in announcing the merger? What are some tips you may be able to share with some other advisors out there who need to have this conversation about succession planning, or selling off the business? What tips can you give them to make that a smooth conversation with their clients?

Quinn: I think being very clear about your story. Why are you doing this? We tried to emphasize the fit between the three of us. The same little spiel you heard there from Eric about them signing up as clients of mine, and going through the same financial planning activities, and that kind of stuff, they made sure to say that and write that out in our emails. It was…

Quinn: I think that’s very important, is to be direct with clients, and also have your story straight as to why you’re doing this. Although there are obviously a lot of motivations for Jean and Eric in doing this, they want to have a secure retirement from the sale of the business, they want to still work for as along as they want as part of an active retirement. We had to actually go through that.

Quinn: We used FP Transitions as a consultant for the merger. They helped with a lot of the mechanical pieces of the merger. I would suggest doing something like that, as well. There’s just a lot of things that, even if you are an experienced business owner, you maybe haven’t thought of if you haven’t been through a purchase or a sale of a business. I think having somebody, it doesn’t have to be an RIA consultant, but an experienced attorney, or that is active in mergers and acquisitions, or something. Somebody that can be guide, I would highly…

Quinn: I would say you just have to do that. It will cost some money, just like financial planning costs money and we all tote the value of that. I think that’s very important if you’re considering a move like this.

Matt: Right.

Jean: We also, the three of us, worked with a coach, just for a short time. On one hand, I think we felt that we all think so much alike, and we have the same client attitudes, and the same investment approach, and those kinds of things. Having an outside party maybe raised some issues, not to resolve with the coach, but as talking points among ourselves.

Jean: The most important thing, from our standpoint, is that this is just a good personality match. That makes all the difference. If you were just merging with somebody who walked in the door and said, “I want to buy your practice,” it would be an entirely different situation.

Jean: I think clients are comfortable with Quinn because we’re all so comfortable with each other. He just, he has the ability to build that relationship quickly, I think by showing that the three of us care about each other and want to make everything successful for the clients.

Jean: It’s talking through things, understanding each other clearly, putting everything on the table, and mostly just being really generous with each other. I think at every single point, we never hit a snag where Quinn wanted to do something that would provide less benefit to Eric and me, or where Eric and I wanted to do something that would not benefit Quinn. Thinking about the practice as a whole and each other, and just being kind, and generous, and considerate has made this such a successful transition.

Matt: Yes. So you would say, then, the personality fit between the three of you is really that good vibe that you felt with Quinn, versus some of the others who approached to purchase your business.

Jean: Yes, for sure.

Eric: Yep, definitely.

Quinn: This is a lot, the same way that clients pick an advisor, because they generally like the personality fit. I’m sure there’s some minority that pick it because of investment performance, or something like that. You have to generally like your advisor, and I think you need to extend that tenfold to a potential business partner. This is just a people business and you have to make those kinds of things work. It should be something that’s top of mind with people.

Quinn: We joke that Eric and Jean still haven’t shown me the room where we keep all the machines that do the financial planning. There’s no asset in the business, like a big financial planning factory that I’m buying from them. It’s really all of this people work together that we have to make work out. I think that that’s something that should be foundational, is you look at who your potential partners would be in the future.

Matt: Tell me a little bit more about what the transition was like when two became one. Obviously, there’s probably some different processes in play in each firm. How do some of those difference in the day-to-day operations of each firm change after the merger?

Quinn: A couple things were easier for us than maybe some other firms. I was not really provided custodied investment management services. I was primarily only working with clients for financial planning, like on a retainer and an hourly basis.

Quinn: Jean and Eric had been providing asset management work as part of overall comprehensive financial planning. They had custodied at Schwab for many years, right out of the gate, so had a significant amount of AUM built up at Schwab. That made the transition smooth because I did not need to bring on a half of a practice onto a different custodian, or somehow try to figure out processes for two different custodians, or something like that.

Quinn: There would be some process challenge with that kind of a merger, if you had like TD Ameritrade and Schwab, or Fidelity, or something like that, that you were trying to pull all of those pieces together and work as a practice together. We fortunately did not have to go through that.

Quinn: For financial planning, I used eMoney. Eric and Jean used MoneyGuidePro. We find that both of the programs are pretty similar. I’ve learned both sides, and they’re learning eMoney. I think, from that kind of planning standpoint, like with using tools, we haven’t found that to be very cumbersome or difficult.

Quinn: We’re pretty fluid on dealing with clients on each. We’ll probably eventually just pick one tool, but I think that’s still a decision yet to come. We’re not really stressed about which tool do we use exclusively for a set of clients.

Quinn: Jean, Eric, what other things have you thought were interesting, like from a process of merger standpoint?

Eric: I think you hit on the key items. You brought in your client base, which was not just AUM. It was more planning you were able to serve. In fact, we were referring prospects to you before the merger happened. You brought in that element.

Eric: Then we were able to bring or existing software, custodian, and those kinds of pieces. There wasn’t a lot of overlap. We didn’t have to make some pretty big decisions right off the bat.

Eric: The exciting part, I think for me, is we now have the opportunity to really look at efficiencies. We’ve got Quinn’s eyes, another set of eyes, looking at things and saying, “Well, I see what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. It might make sense to look at some alternatives, here.” We needed that. Jean and I had grown the business, and it is really valuable to have Quinn’s look and his ideas now, at the way we are doing things to make them more efficient and better.

Jean: I would agree. I think the key thing has been that we’ve all been open to looking at each other’s processes, and each other’s approach. Although they were similar, they don’t exactly match, but we’re flexible in which way we go and just making sure that it works for clients, as well as for the business.

Matt: Eric and Jean, do you have any type of target date for when you would like to be out of the business? Quinn, after they answer that, how do you plan to handle the added responsibility, and also the loss of Eric and Jean as visionaries within the business?

Jean: I have to say, we don’t have a target date. We love what we do. We love the people we work with. But, we also both look forward to having more free time and less time in the office. Gradually, I think we are trying to acclimate ourselves to not being here every day, not being here all day every day, or definitely not being here every weekend as we have been for years. I don’t think we have a date, but we do have a gradual plan to cut back.

Jean: Quinn has been very open to having us involved in what ever way we’re comfortable with. We plan to focus more on processes and back office, and let the client transition happen with Quinn so that they clearly identify him as their advisor, and we’re more friends and the guys that have been around for a while.

Quinn: I will answer your question, Matt. But I do also want to pipe in as Eric and Jean’s financial planner. We talk increasingly with retirement-age clients about finding your own path to retirement. Unless somebody just really cannot stand their job or can’t do it anymore, there’s not necessarily a need to make a hard break in doing a retirement that you find to be fulfilling and worthwhile.

Quinn: I am a big believer that people… I mean, I’ve seen it in my own family. My dad just abruptly stopped working. It was not good for him. It isolated him social and really impacted his health. That was something that I would not want to see my clients go through. I just think it’s unnecessary, too.

Quinn: If the employer, who in this small circle here happens to be me, also… If we could work out a way that Eric and Jean can continue to enjoy the business and contribute the to business, I think it’s best for their early retirement. Certainly, there’ll be a day when they don’t want that. That’s okay, and we’ll find that eventually.

Quinn: I think we increasingly talk to clients about this, because we see the social and mental, and just family impacts of just hard retirements. If that’s not required, maybe avoiding that kind of a break is a good thing for a lot of people.

Quinn: I will take off my planner hat now, and back to business owner hat. The thing with this from a client perspective, I think… As visionaries, Eric and Jean, that’s true that they have built up the earliest and largest fee-only practice in the area. That is important to us, as goals for the firm and for me, to maintain that presence, to build on that.

Quinn: I want clients to feel strongly that they’re part of a thriving practice that has their best interests in mind, as a fiduciary for them. We’re motivated by that, and Eric and Jean are very good representatives of that, and have a lot of value to the firm. Having that place in the firm still, kind of like an emeritus partner at a law firm, where that brings a lot of continuity and that’s important. I want to maintain that.

Quinn: How do we just get work done day-to-day? We’re working through that, too. We kind of knew early on that if the practice was ever going to grow, and if I would have any free time, I have a young family and I need to have some free time built into the day, we would need additional eyes and hands around the firm to make up for the missing amount.

Quinn: We have hired two additional people here. They are young planners. One of them is a colleague, another Matt, by chance, who I had met through the XY Planning Network. We are exploring going full-time with him. He has been part-time for several months, now. We really like the work he does. He is a good compliment on the planning side.

Quinn: We also brought in an intern, another career-changer. We’re pretty proud that all six of us here, including Cindy our admin assistant, are all career-changers. We think that brings a great perspective from outside industries. It brings perspective on questioning, “Why do we do these things?” that are just common-place in financial planning, or in investment advising.

Quinn: We brought in [Jessi 33:28]. She is a career-changer. She’s learning the ropes. This is her first experience. She happens to be a client of the firm, too.

Quinn: We are expanding that way. The two of them bring a lot of good energy for tackling things that they see issues and they think, “Oh, what could we do about that?” Or develop new documents, and develop new approaches to planning. That’s very exciting, and I think it makes me excited as I think about the work we’re doing here.

Quinn: I think Eric and Jean would agree that we feel like we have a very healthy practice. That we’re really moving in a good strong direction, and it’s not just the closing down of one business as another business gulps them up. Or something like that.

Matt: That’s awesome to hear. It sounds, every time you’re adding another piece, it gets more exciting.

Jean: Absolutely.

Eric: Yes. It’s a neat work environment, now. We’ve got such a dynamic, engaged team that it makes it even more fun to come into work.

Matt: Quinn, with the addition of new employees or team members, are you really leading the process of recruiting, interviewing, and hiring these people, since you will be the one ultimately in charge of the mothership at some point?

Quinn: That gives it a lot of structure to something I have not done very… All right, describing it that way, it seems very formal. I find ways to have things fall into my lap, usually. Then I look at Eric and Jean and say, “Should we probably do that?”

Quinn: They say, “Yeah, you probably should do that.” Then we just make things happen.

Quinn: We did not go through a search process or anything like that. I am fully aware that this can be a very difficult process for firms trying to find new planners and new team members. I feel for them. We may face that ourselves, some day.

Quinn: I think we have done another approach, rather than doing the formal search process, which has its own benefit. I would highly recommend, also, how do you leverage your network? Which was all this was. It happened to be a client we knew was coming into a situation where she would consider this.

Quinn: Then a friend through the planning circles that we’re all in, that we also thought would be a good fit, and that would be maybe open to partnering this way. That was Matt’s situation.

Quinn: I think, really, look around in those avenues, too. I’d highly recommend that process, or that form of it. You know those people, and that’s always a challenge with a formal hiring process, is you get a lot of really good candidates, and you get selection. You don’t have that when you’re trying to tap your network and saying, “Oh, who do we know?”

Quinn: Then when you have a formal candidate coming in, who you don’t really know except for this one-page resume, boy you sure need to find out about their personality, and quick, and make sure they’re the right fit. There are certainly things people can go through to do that process. If you take that alternate approach of thinking about who you like and who you know as potential fits…

Quinn: I think we ought to all, in this industry, so call out to all your listeners, we really ought to be thinking about who are people who would enjoy this kind of work, and not fixate on, “Do they have the right bachelor’s degree? Can they pass a series XX, whatever, exam?” All of that stuff can be trained. This is not nuclear physics, in that sense.

Quinn: There’s a lot of people who, we feel very strongly, should get into this industry. We don’t approach them well enough, so that’s a personal passion of mine, is helping people find work. I really like this work. I’m so glad I changed careers, or kind of side-stepped into this career. I feel very strongly that we ought to take that approach with people that we know to talk them into this. Just like Eric and Jean did with me.

Jean: I would add that for experienced planners to make it part of their goal to help people who may be right for this business, or may be interested, to be there for them. To take the time to mentor, and to be open, and to encourage. That’s how our network, locally, has worked.

Jean: Eric and I were the only advisors in the entire area. Now, because of the networking and the people that we’ve talked with and been involved with, there are probably 20 fee-only advisors in our area. We hope to have more and more. We’re not looking at competition. We are looking at better serving consumers with people who should be doing this kind of work.

Jean: It takes time, and it takes energy. As Quinn said, that’s how you get to know other advisors, and know who really fits well with your practice.

Matt: You know, Quinn, I didn’t mean to put you on the spot there with a formal recruiting process. Do you feel that having that informal approach, or things falling into your lap has allowed you to find the right fit versus the right skills?

Quinn: Yeah, yeah. We’re fortunate. I think you can’t discount the amount of luck, or making your own luck in some of this, too. Not everybody has those people in their network right now, that they could look to to hire. It is really important for finding that fit.

Quinn: We think skills can be trained. The three of us have all learned these skills over time. It’s not to say this is a low-skill job, at all. There’s so much value that you can bring with a high amount of technical expertise.

Quinn: I’m also a believer, too, that if we had not had these opportunities, perhaps instead of going through a more arduous process of posting on job boards, and going through a recruiting process, or hiring a recruiting firm or something like that, we maybe would have considered… Actually, I know we would have considered doing a para-planner, a virtual assistant, somebody that would have the right skills who you could test out with some work.

Quinn: Eric and Jean actually did that with me. This was about a year and a half or two years ago, now. They had me come in. We signed non-disclosures and all that kind of stuff. Worked for them as a contractor, so they could test out how did I work on their plans. This didn’t go on for very long. It was just a nice way for us to get to know each other better.

Quinn: I would absolutely consider that with somebody who runs a virtual para-planning practice, or is in some other way offering financial planning skills, but not looking to jump right into a formal hiring process. I think that’s, for younger planners, a great way to get to know a few planners and maybe start that conversation about do they have a fit and a future role more formally in the practice. Even could be part of the succession planning, in years down the line, kind of thing.

Jean: Thank you for mentioning that, Quinn. That was an important step that we had not mentioned before. Actually having the chance to work together did make everybody so much more comfortable.

Matt: Would you say then, having that trial period, is that a piece of advice you would like to give other advisors who might be looking to build their team, is create a part-time position or bring someone on who you think could be a fit, test them out, and go from there?

Eric: Absolutely. If it’s possible to do that, that is such a neat way to get to know someone better while you’re evaluating skills; and give that person a chance to look inside the business a bit to know if they would want to join eventually.

Quinn: Right. Yeah. It’s a two-way street. That’s absolutely right. You are, also as the hiring firm, trying to put yourself out there to say, “We like our culture. We like the kind of coffee we offer in the morning,” or whatever. Whatever reason somebody should come to work there, that’s a great way to sell yourself too, to candidates. As we generally know about the industry, that talented young planners are in high demand. You have to be able to make a case for yourself, as well, why they should come to work for you.

Matt: Eric and Jean, any last tips that you would give advisors who are thinking about approaching retirement and transitioning out of their business? What tips would you give them, if you could go back and change anything, the way you did it?

Eric: I think it’s wise to start thinking ahead. I think the things I’ve read and from our own experience, somebody that thinks they’re five years away or something like that, it’s never too early to start. And to not hurry and rush into the process, but to have a methodical way to go through, to make sure that you’re doing the best to build that foundation, so that you’re firm and your clients and you as the owner, that you’re well taken care of as you move through the whole process.

Jean: I think it is so easy to stay involved in the day-to-day business that it is hard to look far enough ahead to think about ever changing that. Once we got to the point, partly through sessions at conferences, partly through discussions with other people, and partly through people saying to us, “Well, how long are you going to be in the business?” It did force us, finally, to really, seriously consider it.

Jean: Once we did, once we actually started talking about it and talking to people who were interested in taking over our practice, it helped us identify what we wanted to have happen. What was happening with a broker wanting to talk to us about buying the business, made us realize we need to look within the fee-only, and it needs to be the right personality match. Everything kind of let from one thing to another.

Jean: Again, I know I’m focused on this single point, but knowing other people locally. Doing your best to network, and to communicate, and to help and support each other on a local basis, built the relationship with Quinn. It has built the relationship with Matt, and now with Jessi, who’s interning with us. It has all been through knowing people and building the relationship.

Matt: Quinn, any tips out there for someone who’s looking to take their firm to the next level and merge, and eventually take over the full responsibility of another firm?

Quinn: That’s a good question, Matt. I’m sure my thinking will change over the coming years, as I get more perspective on the merger. It’s been a huge success, I think, for us. That’s not to say it’s been easy. There are things that you just have to work through. It is more work than your day-to-day job. You have to be prepared for that, too.

Quinn: I think getting help is really important. Jean mentioned finding a coach. That’s good because there’s a lot of just thinking that you get into, that kind of middle of the night thinking that’s not all bad. It’s just, it’s good to have somebody that you can talk through things with.

Quinn: Eric and Jean and I are very open with each other, and have been from the beginning. I could see how that’s maybe not always going to be the case, with other people looking to purchase a firm. The seller’s, for whatever reason, keep a little more distance. So finding a coach, I think would be helpful for a lot of people.

Quinn: Certainly finding expertise from a consultant or an attorney who knows what they’re doing is critical. Especially early on. You just want to make decisions that are smart as you go into the acquisition, and not be backpedaling later because of some mistake that you made from a regulatory standpoint, or a financial standpoint, or something like that. So getting help.

Quinn: It is a business transaction, so expect that you need to pay money to get assistance on those things with an accountant, and other things. Not trying to do everything because you’re a smart financial person. That’s the same reason that all three of us have a financial planner, too, is that we know we need outside perspective.

Quinn: I think those would be the big ones. Finding help for yourself, personally, and finding business transaction help is really important in the whole process.

Matt: To use a good, old, Midwestern adage here: measure twice, cut once?

Quinn: Yes, yeah.

Eric: Yes.

Jean: Yes.

Matt: All right. Great. Thank you all so much for joining us today on the podcast. I really enjoyed talking with all of you about this very exciting time for the firm. Thank you, again.

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