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Jeff Berman from Think Advisor highlights Docupace sponsored webinr “RIA Megatrends: Catalysts for Disruption, Differentiation and Dominance”

Original article can be found here – https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2023/01/13/8-steps-to-building-a-thriving-ria-business/

Building and maintaining a thriving financial advisory firm” is especially challenging in the current “disruptive environment,” according to Ryan George, chief marketing officer at the fintech firm Docupace.

“Maximizing scalability, delivering differentiated client experience” and attracting top talent to an RIA firm all require “strategic focus” and the adoption of “transformative” technology, George said during the Docupace-sponsored webinar “RIA Megatrends: Catalysts for Disruption, Differentiation and Dominance” on Wednesday.

The advisory firm executives who spoke during the webinar — Shannon Spotswood, president of RFG Advisory; Dan Wanous, business development officer for Thrivent Advisor Network; and Rob Sandrew, chief growth officer at Integrated Partners — are doing all those things and they’re thriving, according to George.

Quoting artificial intelligence pioneer Dave Waters, George, started off the webinar by saying: “If a company isn’t continuously improving then it’s slowly dying.”

Here are eight steps RIAs can take to build their businesses, according to the panelists.

1. Define your firm’s mission values.

“Make the complex simple,” suggested Shannon Spotswood, president of RFG Advisory. The first step to take, she said, is “you need a whiteboard that is wiped clean, and … really get real around what [are] your mission vision values.”

She explained: “It is not enough to say, ‘I do this because I like it. I do this because people trust me. I do this because I’m good at it.’ Advisors that are really, I think, living to the full extent of their potential have become very clear-eyed around who they are serving and why.”

What’s important to figure out about a firm’s clients are: “What makes them differentiated? What is important to them? And [finding] clarity around mission vision values leads to [a] different way that you’re thinking about workflows. You’re thinking about your client experience. They become an amplification of that whiteboard of mission vision values.”

2. Define roles and responsibilities.

“You have to define the roles and responsibilities that will amplify [those] mission values,” Spotswood said. “And that doesn’t mean writing down the names of the people who are on your team.”

She conceded this is “really hard to do.” But she explained: “You really need to start with what are the roles and responsibilities that I need to build the firm that I want, to build the firm that’s going to serve the clients and grow in the way that I want to.”

3. Manage your time better.

“It is becoming incredibly ruthless in the prioritization” of time, said Spotswood. This means “putting on the calendar first when you’re going to ‘passion prospect,’ putting on the calendar first the things that are really important to driving the “underlying health and success of the business,” and then “being a little bit more radical on time blocking,” she explained.

“This notion that our industry is doing annual reviews on any given day, at any month throughout the year is kind of crazy because you’re in this constant state of a high degree of switching cost, and you’re not really giving yourself the headspace to work on your business,” she said.

4. Establish a ‘cadence’ for how you’re going to run your firm.

As examples, Spotswood said: “What are going to be the non-movable meetings on your calendar? How are you interacting with your partners, with your team members, with your advisory board? What does that cadence look like?”

It is crucial to then stick to that, she said, adding: “You don’t have mission vision value clarity without a cadence. You’re not effectively managing your time. And without a cadence, those people that you now have in these clearly defined roles and responsibilities are really rudderless.”

5. Pick the right technology for your firm.

“You’ve got to make your tech work,” Spotswood said. “The tech has gotten very complicated. And so, I think, we’re all a little bit buried in the complexity” of it all, she said.

Amid all these “super cool ideas,” she urged advisors to “just protect yourself from chasing bright, shiny objects.”

6. Don’t hire extra people for the sake of hiring.

To achieve scale, it’s tempting for many people running RIAs to say: “’We need to add a new person’ or ‘We need to add three people this year,’” said Dan Wanous, business development officer for Thrivent Advisor Network. But you also need to ask: “‘What are those people actually going to do? And a lot of advisors will say, ‘Well, we want them to be an expert in compliance and spend six hours a month on that. They also need to know training or they need to know marketing.’ But those people don’t exist.”

He noted that “we all hear about the war for talent that’s going on in the industry, and so working with any firm that gets you artificial scale or maybe community scale enables you to work with firms that do have the capacity to hire experts that you can work with really, really well in any of those given categories and so you can benefit from being a part of a much larger community, where those ‘dials’ are turned just right for you.”

Agreeing, Rob Sandrew, chief growth officer at Integrated Partners, said: “Just because you’re building scale doesn’t mean it’s the right scale.”

7. Be authentic in your marketing.

“We’re at a point now where I think advisors who are not willing to put themselves out there in a vulnerable way and show up very authentically from a marketing perspective are going to lose out,” according to Spotswood. “We see it over and over and over again in the data,” she said. “Clients want to connect with their advisor in three ways: ‘Do you share my values?’ ‘Do you get me?’ And ‘Do I want to spend time with you outside the office?’”

Therefore, a firm’s “marketing and that client experience, whether it’s for your prospects or your existing relationships, needs to reflect that,” she explained, adding: “You can’t do that if you don’t have the right people on your team that are thinking in that lens, and you don’t have the marketing in place, whether it’s how you’re onboarding [and] how you’re doing drip marketing campaigns.”

8. Be open to advising beyond finances.

It’s important for advisors to get out of their comfort zones and even be willing to go “way outside” what they normally do, such as run yoga classes, to attract clients, Spotswood said.

“That’s really interesting,” George responded, adding: “You’re almost like removing the term financial from financial advisor and just having the term advisor.” After all, advisors are now advising on all sorts of things, including health and wellness.

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