Process. That's a word we hear a lot about lately. It's as if the entire profession has awakened to the truth that if you have a process for the work you do, it will make you more efficient and result in better client service.
It sounds so fundamental it's a wonder we find this truth so enlightening. Perhaps it's so meaningful because so many advisors come into this industry as technicians with little experience in running a practice.
That's why advisors share their processes. This has been going on for a long time, as can readily be seen in the technology arena. An advisor creates proprietary software, uses and refines it in his own operation, and eventually offers it for sale to other advisors. Think Junxure and ProTracker CRMs, for example. But this phenomenon isn't just confined to technology. It also takes place in the context of business systems or (here's that word again) in processes. Sharing of processes takes the form of advisor networks, where an advisor invites other advisors to learn his processes and, hence, be more efficient.
Some advisor networks are practically household names, such as the Garrett Planning Network (mostly hourly planners serving middle-market clients) and the Alliance of Cambridge Advisors Inc. (fee-only advisors serving middle-income and high-net-worth clients). In each case, the advisors joining these networks are familiar with the processes of the founder-Sheryl Garrett and Bert Whitehead, respectively, in the cases above-and want to duplicate them within their own firms.
But you've probably never heard of other advisor networks because either they're new or they've operated under the radar for a number of years. For this article, we selected one new network and two more-established networks to illustrate the different ways you can join a community of advisors and jump-start your practice.
The Sestina Network Of Fee-Only Financial Planning Professionals
John Sestina of Columbus, Ohio has more than 40 years experience in our industry and was a co-founder of NAPFA. The Sestina Network of Fee-Only
Financial Planning Professionals (www.sestina.com/us/uPlanners.asp) stresses the fee-only side of planning.
Beginning in 1993, Sestina experimented with ways of getting out the word about fee-only planning and training new industry participants in his methods. Those experiments have evolved into a systematic process whereby Sestina has turned out roughly 50 full-fledged successful planners since inception.
Today, Sestina's training initially consists of a 90-day internship program. "It doesn't matter where the advisor is located because virtual, or remote, operations is part of the plan," Sestina says. "We show them our system, our software, and they sit in on client meetings to fully learn our process. At the end of 90 days, they can decide to: 1) Leave; 2) Operate using our systems virtually, if they're out of state; or 3) If in Columbus, they can actually locate themselves in my office space and get trained directly on-site."
Sestina charges just for the cost of services the advisor-trainee uses; there's no separate fee for the training. "If the planner is out of state, they pay to use our back office," he says. "If they're local, they also pay rent for the office space they occupy."