A designed beauty of synergy is that it serves only to add, never subtract.
—Barb Rentenbach

Synergy has been defined as a phenomenon where one plus one equals three. We agree. For years, we’ve been reading about how the financial advice business will experience a proliferation of mergers, acquisitions and consolidations. And recently, the activity and the articles written on the subject seem to have picked up. And while this information may be interesting to read about, there are questions we all need to ask ourselves to determine whether we want to participate in this activity and, if so, how do we go about doing it and how will that affect our practices?

This article is not meant to determine whether this is a good trend, or to pass judgment on those who have merged—some successfully and some not. This is about one firm’s experiences and to provide a process for those who are considering a merger or acquisition. First, while mergers are defined one way and acquisitions another, we have chosen not to label what we have done as either. We have simply enhanced our practice by adding offices that have been successful in providing financial planning services.

We have had some success and some failures. We learned lessons from both and believe the process we have developed greatly enhances our success ratio. And while the sample we have is not large, we are confident.

One of our early attempts was a mistake and we certainly learned from it. At that time, we were interested in growing and looking for people who had successful client bases. We felt that, with the exposure to our financial life planning process, these people would assimilate into our practice and adopt our core values. We were wrong.

We brought in someone who had a large “book of business” with a major wirehouse and trained him to deliver financial life planning services. He never switched from the selling mentality to a service offering that places the clients’ interest first. After several months and a great deal of time and effort, we realized that a mistake had been made. But it was a valuable lesson and we were determined not to repeat it.

The next time we invited someone to become part of our firm was seven years ago and it was someone we knew very well. Michael Smith, in Atlanta, had a successful office with his wife, Elizabeth Jetton. And while Elizabeth has moved on to coaching and consulting with other advisors, Michael is running a successful RTD office in Atlanta with Roberta Goldbaugh, an accomplished financial planner.

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