Like so many financial advisors, Taylor Ranker was highly motivated to scale the hierarchy of success and build a lasting enterprise—but he wasn’t sure which steps would best empower him to do it.

Back in 2010, in the midst of the global financial crisis, Ranker headed up a four-person practice facing challenges that included a business partner beset with personal problems and a surprise IRS audit. Despite feeling like the firm was in survival mode, he retained a strong vision for a successful future.

“I had a monetary goal of knowing what it was like to make a million dollars a year, and also to create something that would outlive me,” says Ranker, president of Questmont The Virtual Family Office. “I wanted to leave something that my son would be proud of, even if he never took over the business, and that has impacted the community in a positive way.”

Ranker’s path to achieving those goals largely involved building strong relationships with CPAs, attorneys and other centers of influence who have become high-quality sources of affluent referrals. It’s a strategy he learned how to implement from advisor coaching and consulting firm CEG Worldwide. “I already saw the value of a holistic approach to wealth management and was thinking about partnering with COIs to do more for our clients,” says Ranker. “But CEG really put that on steroids and enabled me to run with that plan.”

Ranker points to a few key action steps he took that have fueled his success with COIs:

1. Bring the COIs together to serve clients comprehensively. The COIs became members of Ranker’s expert team. Working together, they collaborate to address the full range of clients’ challenges and issues—while ensuring their various solutions are well-coordinated and no client concerns are overlooked.

2. Focus on quality. Ranker recognized an important fact: He didn’t need a large stable of “just OK” COIs. The far better approach is to assemble a select group of top-tier professionals who excel at solving client challenges and provide superior referrals. Today, that group consists of CPAs, estate attorneys, business attorneys, high-end property-casualty insurance professionals and investment bankers.

3. Set clear expectations. Ranker communicates clearly to the COIs that he is the leader of the team he’s built and the main point of contact with clients. He also spells out that all team members are expected to work together well and coordinate their respective efforts to ensure a smooth client experience. Finally, he requires that each COI refers clients to the group in order to create “economic glue” between the experts.

Today, Ranker is the largest shareholder in an 11-person operation—with headquarters in Lemoyne, Pennsylvania, and a second location in Tampa, Florida—serving increasingly high-net-worth business owners looking to take good care of their families. Ranker marvels at how far he’s come. “The average net worth of the last three clients we onboarded was $60 million—but I can remember 10 years ago being intimidated by prospects with $1 million,” he laughs.

Instead of simply surviving, Ranker now feels he’s truly thriving. “Despite everything—the recession, the audit, Covid-19—we have become a real organization, with a team that lives our values of authenticity, creativity and empowerment,” he says.

John J. Bowen Jr. is CEO of CEG Worldwide and CEG Insights.