When financial advisory firms reach a certain level, they are often tempted to obtain private equity investment to propel their growth even further and potentially sell their business. In the process, independence frequently falls by the wayside.

However, the value of independent decision-making and its role in your business success should not be taken for granted. Your employees, clients and corporate culture are the heart of your business. When decision-making power shifts to an outside investment group, the core aspects of an advisory firm can be adversely impacted in the following ways:

In a high-trust service business like ours, an advisory firm’s most valuable assets are—and always will be—its people. Client relationships are what drive growth and retention. In our industry in particular, if talent leaves, most of the time so do their clients. This double hit to the business can be quite costly.

Retaining good talent can be tough if you are unsure who will own your business within a handful of years. To attract and retain the best talent, RIAs need to commit to delivering growth opportunities and outlining clear career paths for their staff. Unfortunately, involving outside capital can often hinder that process.

This uncertainty makes it difficult to attract top long-term talent. And in our business, if you have great people, great clients will follow.

When you introduce outside capital, often what happens is that ownership shifts and so do priorities.

The reality is that private equity firms typically look to monetize their investments within five to seven years, all the while focusing on improving revenue growth and not necessarily enhancing client service. This creates a natural conflict of interest in that you will always have a third party to answer to.

When you are independent in your decision-making, you have the freedom to put clients first in all of your business decisions and are better equipped to attract and retain top clients.

Culture is not something hypothetical or intangible. It is the sum total of people's behavior at your firm and the day-to-day personal interactions that sit at the heart of your operations. Culture is the thread that ties your talent and clients together.

When you introduce outside capital, these behaviors change—whether intentionally or not—because the motives of the business owners have changed. An owner who is looking to build a legacy business to last through generations will undoubtedly think and behave differently than one who is looking to sell their business in a few years.

This short-term focus on profitability is a conflicting value for most advisors, who are in the business of advising clients to plan for the long-term. Naturally, it’s going to be unsettling for an advisor at a firm that suddenly shifts to a short-term growth strategy for the firm.

Valuations are currently very rich and, as such, the incentive to monetize your business may be higher than ever. However, whether you are looking to take chips off the table or take your business to the next level, it is important that you continue to remain focused on what makes your business what it is in the first place—your talent, clients and culture.

While obtaining outside capital is an option when it comes to growth and monetization, it is not the only one. Both can still be achieved while keeping the best parts of your business intact by partnering with firms that will not impede your independence.

Eric Kittner is CEO and chairman of the board at Moneta, a 100% partner-owned registered investment advisor.