On June 14, 2022, our firm, Accredited Investors Wealth Management, will again host the “Be Our Guest” program at our offices in Minneapolis, where a $1,500 donation to the Foundation for Financial Planning will get you behind the scenes at our firm in its 35th anniversary year.

Our formal program shows all the aspects of how we deliver wealth management to the 600 families for whom we manage almost $3.5 billion, as well as how we run our business. All our 55 employees will be available to you for any questions you have about the business. We limit the program to 20 attendees so everyone can have all their questions addressed. In the past, firms of all sizes have benefited from the exchange.

It has been two years since our last program and much has changed. Here are some things we will be covering that you can think about for your own practices.

The Entrepreneurial Operating System, Or EOS
The biggest change we’ve made in our business is to implement an “entrepreneurial operating system” for our executive committee. This idea is described in Gino Wickman’s book Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business—a system that helps you run your business rather than have the business run you. The system has many components, but I’ll share some of the ones that have had the greatest effect on our organization:

1. Holding “Level 10” meetings. Our executive committee is made up of six people who meet every Wednesday morning from 7:30 to 9:00 to go over our financials and ratios, progress we are making on our quarterly objectives, client or staff issues, firm-wide messages we need to communicate, and then whatever other issues that need to be addressed (or parking lot issues that we now have time to cover). Anyone who knows me would never expect me to agree to weekly meetings, much less ones that go for 90 minutes, but these have transformed our organization. We speak a common language and have more clarity about what we need to do.

2. Identifying, discussing and solving problems. As we go through the issues, the entrepreneurial operating system helps us identify, discuss and solve one issue before we move on to the next. We used to spend a lot of time trying to solve multiple things simultaneously without realizing we were doing so. For example, when understanding family billing, we may have looked at lineage, privacy, types of accounts, the size of the relationships, etc. Before we had the operating system, chaos would ensue as we brought up each of these items in our discussion and never solved any of them. Now we make sure we correctly identify the issue we need to resolve before identifying the next piece. While this sounds obvious, it can be hard to do. The entrepreneurial operating system has given us the discipline to manage this.

3. Having a vision/traction organizer. This one is the mother lode. It means identifying our core values, core focus, 10-year targets, our marketing strategy, our three-year picture and our one-year plan. We broke these down so that the things we work on align with what our stated objectives are. Like most entrepreneurs, we used to get excited by shiny objects: some new or interesting way to market or organize without regard to how it fit into our long-term objectives. I cannot begin to tell you how much wasted effort would have been saved if we used this process years ago.

To create this operating system, we worked with a facilitator to help us get started on the process. It is not something we could have done on our own.

Succession Planning
I believe this system helped pave the way for our succession plan. At the Be Our Guest event, we will share with you what transpired. Accredited’s president, Wil Heupel, and I have been selling the firm to internal shareholders over the last few years. We set up outside bank financing to finance the purchase of our shares. But succession planning is far more than constructing an orderly model for share sales. For founders like us, it involves understanding where we needed to step in, step up or step out. It meant coming to grips with the fact that not only were we celebrating the firm’s 35th anniversary, but we were 35 years older. It meant that if we wanted the firm to stay independent, we needed to pass the torch while still being seated by the fire. In other words, we needed an orderly transition of leadership while Wil and I could stay involved at both the firm and client level.

In well-run firms, succession planning should be subtle, not splashy. Every person involved gave up something in order to gain long-term benefits for the firm.

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