One of the selling points, besides personality fit, was Botree's decision to leave Alexandria Associates intact and bring on a managing partner to run it. "I could just sense that these guys, who managed $1.2 billion, would be a good fit for my clients and my employees," says Grzymala.

The planner fetched a little more than two times annual gross revenues in the sale. "The way the deal worked is we got a down payment (a third of the selling price), a third as a promissory note and third as an earnout," adds Grzymala, who along with wife Barbara will stay on until March to assist with the transition.

Hong says his goal is to cross-pollinate services a little bit between planning and money management, "but more importantly to better leverage our expertise in creating an ideal and efficient wealth management practice." Before creating Botree, Hong was chief operating officer at Global Value Investors.

In addition to bringing on a managing director at the advisory firm, which will be moved to more efficient space in the coming months, Botree has spent about $50,000 creating a technology tunnel between the New Jersey and Virginia offices, to close the physical gap and create immediacy. The firm plans to spend another $15,000 to $20,000 to complete the first phase of technology improvements.

The strategy is not to change how advice is delivered, Hong says, but to improve on back-office functionality and free up planners' time so they can spend it with clients and prospects. "The real test in terms of profitability will be in the second year, when there should be a bump in revenues and we can see if our challenge to everyone to do things a bit differently pans out."

The firm will also be focusing on bringing in higher-end clients. "We do plan to swim upstream," says Hong. "Before, the practice itself didn't have the discriminating authority to turn away clients, but we're looking for clients with at least a few million in assets and we're not opposed to letting those with a few hundred thousand go."

Currently, the firm is at about $100 million in wealth management assets and would like to get to $500 million in the next two to three years through marketing and more acquisitions. "We're looking for firms in the Northeast corridor between New York and Virginia that will benefit from our infrastructure, are generating wealth management fees and are not advisor-dependent," Hong adds.

While Hong does not plan to retain principals in any of his acquisitions, the opposite is true for advisor Michael Leonetti. He finished one acquisition in the past year and is about to complete two more-all in a strategic bid to grow by acquiring assets and building a structure at his firm that allows him to go after larger clients and even provide family office services when needed. Currently the firm has eight planners and each has an assigned paraplanner and assistant.

Instead of buying practices and shedding the practitioners, Leonetti favors bringing some practitioners onboard, usually in exchange for equity. "We want to position ourselves as a firm that can address sophisticated clients with highly personalized service, so we need these practitioners," says Leonetti, who is acquiring both veteran and younger planners' practices.

The aging planners are obvious targets, says Leonetti. "They want out and don't want to have to rebuild clients or assets after the market fall. But the younger advisors are fascinating, too," he says, "because a lot of them are entrepreneurial and, in essence, victims of their own success."