Just across the street from TD Ameritrade Institutional’s national conference last week in San Diego is a bar where they shot the “Great Balls Of Fire” scene from the 1986 hit movie, Top Gun. So it was fitting that TD brought out some of the advisory profession’s top guns to share advice to help attendees grow their businesses.
Here are 10 of the best tips:
1. Think long term. “You have got to build a one-hundred-year firm,” said Thomas Muldowney, principal at Savant Capital Management. He said when working with his clients to plan for their own mortality, he used to ask, ‘What happens if you die?’  Now he asks, ‘What happens if you died last night?’ His revised question adds urgency and hits on one of the attendees’ largest issues––they are not prepared for succession.

Maybe his best advice came in the saying, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” What he meant was that to have continuity within the business it sometimes makes sense to think that good is better than perfect to be able to add resources and move forward.

2. Be aware of dangerous changes. Matt Cooper, president of Beacon Pointe Wealth Advisors, said if you drop a frog in a boiling pot of water it will jump out immediately. But if you slowly raise the water temperature while the frog is in the water, it will not notice the danger and will not survive. His point was to suggest that RIAs need to be more aware of the competition. “We are going to see a lot of the best wirehouse firms hopping out as a team and competing with us,” Cooper said.

3. Build something bigger and better. “You have to get to scale,” said Ron Carson, CEO and founder of Carson Wealth Management Group. He asked the attendees, “How do I make my business worth more?”

Carson stressed that some kind of succession plan is better than no succession plan at all, and he also suggested that firms capitalize. “There are going to be a lot of opportunities in play.  Why not have a firm that will take advantage of these opportunities?,” Carson asked. “Get to the end of your life and say ‘I am glad I did’ instead of ‘I wish I had. Don’t just be ok, be great!”

4. Keep your head up. John Furey, founder and principal of Advisor Growth Strategies LLC, suggested making an effort to work on the business. “Take the time to do strategic planning,” he said.

5. Build a business around service. “The heart of our brand is client service,” said Marvin Adams, COO of TD Ameritrade. He noted that creating a collaborative culture improves both morale and the quality of services offered to the client.

6. Lead. Fred Tomczyk, president and CEO of TD Ameritrade, said there are common threads of a successful business that can really drive an organization:
·      Stay on a consistent path. By constantly changing strategies, your people will not know what your firm is about. Have clear core values that instill employees with a higher purpose. 
·      Have a strategy that’s simple to carry out. Complex strategies are hard to execute.  Simple strategies work well, so limit the number of initiatives.
·      Do not think you are done after communicating a strategy. You need to align everything you manage and reward.
·      Surround yourself with good people with complimentary––not similar––skill sets.
·      Never get complacent.  

7. Grow. “Having size and scale is beneficial,” said Bruce Meyer, managing director and owner at Beacon Pointe.

8. Have a strong team. “You’re only as professional as the people behind you,” said Anthony Purpero, senior financial officer at Partnervest Financial Group, LLC.