Business Development
One of the major changes at our firm came when we developed a better strategy for business growth. Our managing director Becky Krieger took the lead on this effort, and the results have been incredible. We have a firm growth committee that meets twice a month to give status updates and share ideas about growth opportunities—identifying who at the firm can speak with influential outsiders and have a better understanding of who may become a good fit as a client. For example, in one meeting we discussed one of our clients whose company was bought by private equity, and we developed a strategy for working with his colleagues who shared in the liquidity event. We are not a firm that pays for production; all clients are clients of the firm, not any individual in it. We offer firm-wide profit-sharing rather than production bonuses. But our firm’s growth is a key ingredient in creating sustainability so that people who work in it can have a career path that’s exciting for them.

We’ve also created a new policy about admitting clients. We’re a comprehensive planning firm that does asset management, and we still charge based on assets under management. Our minimum relationship is $2 million. But now we have a formal policy for someone who doesn’t meet the minimum to come aboard if they are following a path that will allow them to reach our account minimums within a certain period. These clients come to an executive committee that decides on their eligibility. The committee has also allowed us to refer potential clients who are not ideal fits for us to other planning firms and thus fulfill our deeper desire to help anyone who needs it.

We have managed to hire some excellent people during the Covid-19 pandemic, even though they are not coming into the office. Our hiring practices have significantly evolved over the last few years, and that’s helped us with our success rate in finding people who are good fits for their roles in the organization.

We have two people leading this hiring comprehensive process—Jeremy Heckman and Megan Olson. Potential employees meet with Jeremy and Megan, as well as several other staff members. If everyone is comfortable, we move forward by sending them to an industrial psychologist who does extensive testing for competencies and cultural fit. Many prospective hires end up getting weeded out by the psychologist. Think about that. In order to get to the psychologist, they would have had to meet with several staff members who gave them the OK. If they get rejected by the psychologist, we have created another level of safety.

I say safety because bad hires are bad for the business. Studies show that by adding this step, success improves from less than 40% to 67%. It’s still far from perfect, but each incremental improvement in the process saves our time, money and reputation.

The people we do hire go through their report with the psychologist to understand the areas where they may struggle. That report also helps us understand the things we need to pay attention to and provide coaching.

I don’t want to say that we were ready for a pandemic, but in many ways we were prepared for remote work. All of our employees had laptops at their workstations, which eased the change to work from home.

Still, the pandemic taught us a lot. The most important thing we learned was that we needed to constantly communicate. Most people like certainty, and a pandemic provides none. We pushed back our office’s reopening and had to adjust the way client meetings worked. We had to be flexible for employees who struggled with childcare and needed to be sensitive to those managing the impossible task of schooling their kids while trying to do their jobs. We had to help those who were isolated try to feel like a part of the company. One of the things that helped the most is that our managing director Brian Martin, one of the people helping us put the Entrepreneurial Operating System in place, hosted a Zoom meeting twice a month called “Ask Me Anything,” in which he would go over our plans and address whatever issues anyone may have had.

We are creating a service-from-anywhere approach for our business where most employees are not required to work full time in the office. We are going to continue to test various ideas to see how they work, but it will be important to be able to adapt as things change.

I hope you can join us June 14 for what I guarantee will be a great day for you and raise money for a great cause. We are excited to host you and share with you things that we believe can meaningfully impact your business.

For more information, please reach out to Barb Schiel, our executive administration and facilities manager, at [email protected].

Ross Levin is the chief executive officer and founder of Accredited Investors Wealth Management in Edina, Minn.

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