Going Independent? Final Launch Stages
While some aspects required in building an independent practice may not involve facing clients, they may be just as vital to generating equity value and sustaining success.
Does an address matter? That all depends on how an advisor works, who their clients are and where, and whether the physical space is anything more than a place to park a few desks and pick up the mail.
If image and venue are important and clients actually come to the office, then the actual space takes on a more important role. If an advisor or team spends most of the time on the road, on the phone or on social media, then having a choice address in the best building in town is an unnecessary financial burden.
Beyond the 'if' and 'where of your location are questions about the lease and rent; buying or even sharing; per square-foot costs, common area maintenance fees, utility expenses, internet readiness, signage restrictions, parking availability, and insurance. Depending on where a firm is planning to do business, some, all or none of these issues can be negotiable.
How big is the team, or how big is it planning to be? How will your group grow, through organic growth, tuck-ins, partnerships?
What about conference rooms, a reception area, or hospitality facilities? It might be better to get more space upfront, even if it wont be used for a while, than to pay for a move or negotiate for a bigger footprint later on. Unbridled success and outgrowing an office can be a rite of passage. It can also be a huge hassle.
Many real estate firms can help with this.
Filling the office can be as simple as a call to an office furniture rental company, or on the other extreme, an investment in custom fixtures, furniture and interior design.
Layout is also important, and something of a science. Furniture companies will generally include office planning as part of their services, but its good to have an idea in mind of how the office flow should work. The internet, phone and other installations will follow. We find that most advisors underestimate the time it will take to set up their office for launch.
After the general office set-up, then comes the electronic hardware: computers, monitors for data feeds, copiers and printers. A team going independent might be able to deal with all that themselves, but most should not. There is a wide variety of IT outsourcing firms that work extensively with financial services. They will get the equipment, make sure everything is installed and working flawlessly, and be available for support based on your service contract. Its worth every penny.
For the most part, wirehouse teams who want to go independent generally do so together. After all, they have worked together and have shared ideals, values and client relationships that are built up over time. Thus the decision is often made collectively. Sometimes legal or contractual issues may prevent this, or in some cases delay departures.
However, most groups go together. It saves on staffing and other human resource considerations. The team can be up and running without personnel interruption.
Sometimes a move to independence involves a parting of ways. Not everyone is keen on the idea. Or, its a chance to lose certain players, who just arent the right fit or dont have the entrepreneurial mindset required. Knowing this well in advance helps with finding replacements for a new firm, so it can be fully staffed on day one. You have to balance that knowledge by exercising confidentiality. You dont want a team member prematurely exposing your dreams.
Future recruiting needs are also a consideration. Again, what are the growth plans for the new firm? Will it be aggressive, or a wait-and-see approach?
You can get help in knowing where to look for future talent, or where to start looking, with a transition partner. A firm that works with many different independent teams will have a vast network and the ability to find people the right people quickly. Having this vision will also allow you to pick the right benefit programs for employees. The setup of payroll, health benefits and retirement programs should be done with current and future employee needs in mind.
Performing a P&L pro forma analysis is a key part of a successful business plan, and something that should happen at the start of the independence process. Just how profitable and viable will this firm be?
A transition partner will work with a team or group on either performing a comprehensive financial analysis, or enlisting a third-party to complete the work. Budgeting and other financial planning will stem from this initial analysis, which will also provide the basis for continued monitoring and adherence.
Looking after clients finances is one thing; but staying on top of the firms own finances may not be where financial advisors want to focus their time and energy, unless they also have an accounting background or qualifications.
Beyond having real-time insights into how well a practice is doing, having an internal or external accounting process means staying ahead of any taxes, unanticipated expenses or other costs that may derail your business plan. There are software programs, bookkeepers, or administrative staff that can be assigned to the tasks. High-performing firms have a robust accounting service, which frees them up to spend time with clients, helping them to achieve their financial goals and dreams, instead of being buried in spreadsheets. And isnt that what having an independent firm is all about?