"We're thinking about the human capital we have here and how we can nurture it," says Holland.

It's striking, but cultivating human capital is largely ignored by the trade press, leading institutions and the most popular practice management experts. Yet, when you think about it, human capital could be a small business's best opportunity for growth.

Holland says many advisors get on a growth treadmill without realizing it. They just keep adding employees and capacity without thinking about where the company is headed. Without a growth plan, an advisor can suddenly find himself running a business and managing people instead of doing what he loves.

Holland says advisors don't just want growth for the sake of it. They want quality growth. "We don't have any trouble getting new business," says Holland. "But because our human capital isn't ready, we cannot afford to have too much growth."

Holland says she was always a natural leader, "but I have had to work really hard to be a manager and create a healthy workplace for my team.

"I spend a third of my time advising clients, a third mentoring and managing team members, and a third on business development-thinking about the future and client communications."

For Dennis Stearns, growth comes down to one idea: "delighting clients."

Stearns, president of Stearns Financial Services Group (SFSG) in Greensboro, N.C., says his plans for growth include opening a branch about an hour away from his main location in an area known as the Research Triangle.

"The Triangle" covers the cities of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. With an abundance of leading technology firms, world-class universities, and medical centers, the Triangle's economy has performed exceptionally well. Wikipedia says significant increases in employment, earnings, personal income and retail sales are projected over the next 15 years.

Stearns says about 20% of his clients are in the Triangle. SFSG, which manages $400 million, has a national client base. Stearns says SFSG has steadily grown at a 25% rate for many years and is planning on maintaining that for at least the next five years. Stearns says 90% of the growth is based on referrals from existing clients.

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