The Limitless Adviser

Why advisory firm founders and successors can't get on the same page

Preconceived ideas stemming from different generational mindsets can get in the way of progress

May 25, 2018 @ 11:54 am

By Stephanie Bogan

"A man learns something carrying a cat by the tail that he can learn in no other way." With this quote Mark Twain insightfully illustrates a powerful point: Experience is the best teacher, though it's not always kind or gentle to the student.

The bullish markets and aging baby boomers have fueled remarkable practice growth over the last decade. Since many advisers are also baby boomers, adding advisers to handle a growing client base or provide succession planning options is essential for the growth and continuity of their practices. But most of these advisers are not ready to retire, and some plan to die with their boots on.

There is a growing lifestyle movement among founders: They've worked hard and feel it's time they began to live a bit more and work a bit less. But they are not ready to retire or remove themselves from their practices.

This evolving movement is creating increased demand for hires to support these founders. But finding and hiring an adviser is entirely different than successfully training and transitioning responsibility to one.

(More Limitless Adviser: Why being a great financial adviser is not enough)

The founder generation of advisers who now runs successful firms are self-driven and self-made. Most began their careers with an encouragement in the form of: "Here's the phone book, pick up the phone and make it happen." And make it happen they did. These advisers are entrepreneurial spirits who forged their own way while, at the same time, forming a profession.

There's just one problem: The advisers following in their footsteps have grown up in a different environment and time. These individuals have professional degrees and designations, and expect to join a service firm not a sales force. They expect compensation to be robust, yet not at risk. And they expect it to be determined in ways beyond the generation of new business. They want career advancement tracks, standards of practice and partnership equity over time.

The risk-reward relationship is fundamentally different between founder advisers and those following after them.

Many of those hired and in line to succeed are competent advisers who lack the ever-important entrepreneurial spirit and rainmaking skills. Founders are struggling to secure successors who can provide professional leadership, service top clients at a senior level and drive growth — all in the same person.

(More Limitless Adviser: 7 things successful people do right)

I've had to coach founders through their trepidation, fear, judgment and lack of clarity about how succession planning, partnerships and M&A will successfully occur. I've heard plenty of: "When I started my practice I worked 12 hours a day 7 days a week," "This generation has no work ethic, they want to be handed the success I struggled decades to achieve" and "Where's the initiative, why isn't she rainmaking?" to know the mental pains that come with this process.

I've also spent time on the other side of the fence listening to the successors concerns, such as: "He runs this place like a cowboy," "She says I'm on the successor path, but nothing is in place," "He just won't share responsibility," "He expects me to read his mind" and "I don't want to work like a maniac; this isn't a sales shop, it's a professional career."

Even when there is high regard and respect at the outset, such hires are often ill-managed and too often fail, even though better outcomes were within reach.

The challenge is that the issues at play are largely invisible and almost always overlooked and undervalued. As I've shared previously, 80% of success is driven by mindset, meaning that the thoughts and beliefs founders bring to the process of hiring advisers — successors or otherwise — are the critical factor in the success of such endeavors. Yet, more often than not, mindset is missing from the conversation.

Founders seeking to hire advisers to gain back some of their time and freedom — or simply to add capacity to support their growing firms — will be well-served to become aware of the invisible, preconceived ideas they bring to the equation, understand how those beliefs help or hinder the process, and work to ensure they manage their mindset while also being thoughtful about their methods.

Lacking such a holistic strategy, many advisers are left holding the cat by the tail once it's out of the bag.

Stephanie Bogan is the CEO of Educe Inc. and has spent 20 years helping advisers unleash their potential to build successful firms and lives they love. Contact her at


What do you think?

View comments

Recommended for you

Advisers on the Move

Upcoming Event

Oct 23


Women Adviser Summit - San Francisco

The InvestmentNews Women Adviser Summit, a one-day workshop now held in four cities due to popular demand, is uniquely designed for the sophisticated female adviser who wants to take her personal and professional self to the next level.... Learn more

Featured video


Financial health of advisory firms is excellent. Or is it?

Deputy editor Bob Hordt and senior columnist Jeff Benjamin discuss the fact that double-digit growth in revenue and assets doesn't necessarily spell a rosy future.

Latest news & opinion

Don't be fooled by the numbers — the industry is in a dangerously vulnerable state

Last year's stock market gains helped advisers turn in solid growth in assets and revenue, but that growth could disappear in the next market downturn.

Divided we stand: How financial advisers view President Trump

InvestmentNews poll finds 49.2% approve of his performance, while 46.7% disapprove. How has that changed over the course of his presidency?

10 states with the most college student debt

Residents of these states have the most student debt when you consider their job opportunities.

Ex-Wells Fargo brokers sue for damages, claiming they lost business in wake of scandals

In a Finra arbitration complaint, two brokers allege that Wells Fargo's problems damaged their business.

Invesco to buy OppenheimerFunds

Deal brings Invesco another $246 billion in assets, as well as high-fee actively managed funds.


Hi! Glad you're here and we hope you like all the great work we do here at InvestmentNews. But what we do is expensive and is funded in part by our sponsors. So won't you show our sponsors a little love by whitelisting It'll help us continue to serve you.

Yes, show me how to whitelist

Ad blocker detected. Please whitelist us or give premium a try.


Subscribe and Save 60%

Premium Access
Print + Digital

Learn more
Subscribe to Print