Incentives
A clear plan for advancement to a more senior role should also be in place. It gives the junior person a path to follow, a way to benchmark progress and a series of goals.

But overall, keeping junior people properly motivated may not be as easy as it sounds. “You have to offer a competitive package so you get the best people, but not so much that your firm is getting nothing out of it,” says Sohn.

In addition to a percentage of revenue, Antaeus gives bonuses for particular accomplishments. “For instance, when the person achieves an advanced designation, we’ll increase the pay,” he says, adding that these are incentives that aren’t necessarily related to revenue generation. “If you’re always in revenue-generating mode, you might not be consistently doing the right thing for your clients,” says Sohn. “You want to reward the advisor for things that make him or her a better advisor.”

Not Just About Money
Sohn acknowledges that there’s nothing wrong with being “interested in the financial package,” but for his ideal candidate that’s not the primary motivation. “The kind of people we like get excited when their clients are able to achieve their goals,” he explains.

That’s a theme that runs through many advisors’ experiences with associates: It’s not just about the money. Ellis Liddell, president of ELE Wealth Management in Southfield, Mich., who started his career as a junior manager himself, tells the story of one trainee who did not work out. “I gave the young man a choice between being a junior staffer who earned 40% of his business and worked alongside me, or a sort of independent contractor who earned 80% but worked alone, generating his own leads,” Liddell recalls. “He opted for the 80% option, and six months later he had not generated a single penny. I gave him a chance to change his mind.”

When Liddell had been presented with the same opportunity himself years earlier, he chose the 40% option. “I learned so much from the guy I was working for,” he says. Before a year was out, Liddell had generated more than $250,000 of business, of which he took home just 40%. “I chose the lower pay, but got so much more out of it,” he asserts. “I was motivated by watching him, wanting to show him what I could do to earn his trust, and I was happy to be affiliated with someone who showed me the ropes.”

What he learned from this experience is that junior people are motivated more by the desire to succeed than by the desire to earn more money. “Reward junior executives for a job well done by taking them to your country club or favorite restaurant and letting them know, ‘I’m here to celebrate you tonight,’” he says. “Those simple things that you would do for your own family are what really count.”

A Professor-Student Relationship
In many ways, the relationship between a senior and junior advisor should not be that of boss and employee, he says. Liddell prefers a professor-student relationship. “As the professor, you have to have a curriculum. You have to know where you plan to take these people. You have to educate them because they don’t know it all in advance and aren’t going to learn it through osmosis,” he says.

This educational arrangement should last at least 18 months, he holds, and sometimes as long as twice that. “By that time, the student should understand why he or she is partnering,” he says.

That may sound like a long journey, but it’s not entirely a one-way street. Professors often learn from their students, Liddell points out. A young person might help the senior advisor with technology and social media, for instance. “It may not be acceptable in corporate America for a trainee to outdo a superior, but you should always be open to taking advantage of the younger person’s talents,” he says. “If you don’t allow the student to impress the professor, you could be losing out.”

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