Selecting the right type of client who can extract maximum benefit from a firm's core competencies is also critical to leveraging a firm's resources. Polstra & Dardaman transitioned about half its clients to other firms in the last year, giving up some revenue but streamlining operations.

 Tibergien cautions that although eliminating clients occasionally may be necessary for firms choking on volume, it's not a good long-term strategy. "Clients are perishable, and if you develop a reputation that you no longer take clients, you end up capping your growth," he explains. A better strategy is to create capacity that lets the firm add clients, albeit the kind of client whose profile dovetails with the firm's service offerings and can be served profitably.

 The three key figures for advisors to look at are: revenue per client, profit per client and profit per professional staff person. The difference between high-profit group practices and the average firm is almost $1,800 in operating profit per client.

 "The impact will be noticeable on their own quality of life and their ability to serve their clients," he says. "Too many people think building equity is the endgame. The endgame should be building a practice capable of serving clients, whether you are there or not. If you do all the things that make business sense, you'll have the option of walking away from a deal [acquisition offer] you don't want to accept."

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