My best tip for financial advisors who are trying to decide if they should go the independent route is to remember the old adage, "it isn't what you know but who you know."

Don't make a move before consulting with an advisor at the firm being considered. A trusted colleague who has already gone through the process of joining that firm will be the best guide to measuring the pros and cons of making such a move.

In my own case, after a 33-year career at Merrill Lynch, I knew my choices were to open my own registered investment advisor firm or launch an independent business with HighTower Advisors or one of its competitors.

I knew a lot about both options, but my friendship with and trust in another former Merrill Lynch advisor who was already with HighTower made all the difference for me. He was able to give me the truth about what joining the firm entailed, compared with what it would be like to strike out on my own.

Having been through the same due diligence and process himself, his trusted expertise was invaluable.

I was seeking a firm where I would be surrounded by peers I respected and who also believed in managing to the highest common denominator instead of the lowest. The counsel I received from my friend was instrumental in my decision.

And my friend's advice and guidance didn't end there.

Being able to call on him during the pre-break planning process was also invaluable. And I called on him a lot, such as when I didn't understand one of the many new operational terms in the independent world; when I needed to make decisions about custodians or software vendors; and when I needed reassurance after a sleepless night of pre-break jitters.

Having a friend in your corner is always a great thing. But I think it's a necessity for an advisor deciding to go independent.

Fear of the unknown is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to leaving the wirehouse world. If an advisor can talk to a trusted colleague who has already gone through the process, it is a tremendous help.

The advisor will benefit from the experiences of others, which will lead to a great transition and a much happier life as an independent. For those who are considering independence, reach out to an advisor who is already where you want to be.

Pamela Lynn Abraham is a managing director, partner and chief investment strategist at HighTower Fort Myers.

This story is part of a 30-day series on going independent.

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