The folks who run Accredited Investors Inc. are sharp cookies who rack up awards and recognition within the financial planning profession. One of the keys to their success is knowing when to tweak their business model.

Following the deep downturn of '08-'09, they realized it made sense to re-examine some of their business practices. "Last year we decided to set up a number of different things we wanted to work on and that this is a good time to retool, rethink and find out where we're at with our clients," says Wil Heupel, managing principal at the Edina, Minn.-based firm.

"From an organization structural standpoint, we want to refine and realign ourselves to accomplish growth," Heupel says. "One of the key things for us is to identify and mentor the next generation of leadership."

The firm hired a management consultant, evaluated its staff and clients, and ultimately let go those employees and customers it thought wouldn't be a good fit going forward. The goal, Heupel says, is to find out "who's on the bus" as the firm tries to get to another level.

Accredited Investors is one of many advisory firms looking to redo certain aspects of its business in the aftermath of the recession. "I think advisors are now a little more confident to take time out and work on their business versus just working in the business and putting out fires," says Dan Inveen, principal and research director at the consulting firm FA Insight.

"Maybe before the downturn there was motivation by some firms to re-examine their strategic direction," he continues. "But the downturn put that on hold. What we're seeing now is a pent-up demand for strategic planning that's been set aside for the past 18 months."

Getting Focused
There's nothing like a crisis to sharpen one's focus. "It's easy when things were going well like it did for most of the past 18 years with unabated growth for the most part," says Steven Lockshin, chairman and CEO of Convergent Wealth Advisors in Rockville, Md. "It created a confidence level that allowed you to not focus on things that weren't working. I think one of the biggest things to come out of [the downturn] is people are starting to focus on areas that weren't as strong in their business."

Lockshin says his firm last year started organizing its clients into three distinct segments. One is a high-net-worth category that comprises clients with up to $5 million in investable assets. The second is taxable clients with more than $5 million. The third segment focuses on non-taxable institutional clients.

"That alone has allowed us to differentiate our offering-both in terms of technology and service-so we can run as efficiently as possible," Lockshin says.

As Convergent has expanded and opened a number of small, far-flung offices over the years, Lockshin says, the company has remained mindful of the problems of trying to build a consistent corporate culture. Consequently, it has recently downscaled its footprint.

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