Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.Dan Richards

Last week I talked to an advisor who’d just hired his second full-time assistant.

Just five years into the business and with assets of $85 million, he wanted to ensure he had the infrastructure to handle additional clients, and to have capacity before he needs it rather than scrambling to add staff when demands from new clients are stretching him thin.

He asked me about the keys to getting the most out of his team.  Over the past 25 years, I’ve observed many high-performing teams and spent a lot of time talking to advisors and their support staff about what works and what doesn’t.  I shared four observations with this advisor about what it takes to have a well-functioning team.

Step one: The right staff

The first step is to make the right hiring decision – top performing advisors need staff who are bright, motivated, detail oriented, good with numbers, self-starters and can multi-task effectively. In addition you need staff who can operate effectively under pressure, are people-oriented and with whom you have good chemistry. 

A common trap for advisors is settling for someone who’s just okay. Starting with outstanding talent is the first key to a peak-performing team.

Step two: The right communication

When I talk to unhappy assistants and associates who’ve parted company advisors (bearing in mind that I’m only getting one side of the story), I hear all kinds of beefs –advisors are unreasonably demanding, have volatile personalities or simply aren’t nice people.  And sometimes they’re cheap when it comes to what they pay (more about that in a moment).

But the number one complaint I hear from support staff relates to poor communication. A number of things lead to effective communication:

  • Clearly defined expectations and roles
  • Frequent and short structured updates on priorities and what’s going on – at least weekly, preferably at the start of each day
  • Openness on the part of the advisor to his team’s ideas and points of view
  • Ability to provide input into the advisor’s plans for his or her business
  • Regular feedback on performance and how team members are doing

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