The solo advisor is inevitably faced with the tough decision on when to make their first hire and in which direction to go with it. Some of the more important things that you should consider when faced with this decision are (1) how you want the firm to operate and (2) what fits your personality and working style as an advisor. On the topic of how you want the firm to operate, the main concern is how you envision the client experience to be now that you are bringing another person on to your team. Before making this hiring decision, your clients have only dealt with you. In terms of how the firm operates, there are many different ways you can go about it. On one extreme, you can bring on an "assistant"-type that is a jack-of-all-trades that very much so engages with your clients or on the opposite extreme, you can engage with a virtual team or consultant that may interact much less directly with clients. On the second point of thinking through your decision, based on what fits your personality and working style, it is important to really take the time to consider what would really work for you as the business owner and advisor. For example, if you are dead-set on having a physical presence with you in your office, a virtual relationship simply would not work - even if it is the most economical. Also, on thinking about you personality and working style, make sure you consider what aspects of the business you'd be okay with delegating to someone else. When you started out as a solo advisor, odds are that you went on this path because you wanted to create your own client experience and do things "your way". When you think about your first hire, you should certainly still base your decision on that mentality. The questions that you may ask yourself include:
What can I afford?
Do I want the new hire to be client-facing or more back-office support?
Should the new hire work physically in my office, work remotely half the time, or be 100% virtual?
Do I need the new hire to be full-time, part-time, or project-based?
Where are my biggest gaps?
What do I want to spend 80% - 100% of my time on?
What do I hate spending my time on and wish I could delegate?
Which tasks or duties are process-driven that can be easily delegated?
Now that you've answered those questions, what kind of role makes the most sense to hire first? Which of the following below are you going to choose?
Virtual Team Member
If you want a break-down on what Paraplanners actually do for financial advisors and how they differ from Administrative staff, watch this video from Michael Kitces.
The first four roles listed above are essentially support to you, the business owner and lead advisor. The next role, Senior/Lead Advisor, may make sense as a first hire if you want to grow you firm where you partner with a more experience advisor or simply hire someone that is able to bring in new clients from the get-go. The role of "Marketing Consultant" could be hiring a firm to outsource marketing needs such as social media management, blog writing, creating collateral, etc. Most advisors do not spend nearly enough money on marketing, so this could be a "hire" that makes sense before anything. Finally, we listed "Virtual Team Member" above to differentiate from the other roles on the basis of not needing to work in your office (let alone, the same city). When thinking in terms of advisor support (receptionist [ Ruby ], administrative/operations, paraplanner, or associate advisor), there are many virtual options out there that may make sense for your needs.
What is great about all of the options above, is that it should not be hard to find someone (or a firm) to start out on a project or part-time basis. The reason why this is important is because you may want to test the waters first to make sure that the new hire culturally fits with how you run your firm. At the end of the day, if you are a solo financial advisor, you have a certain way of working with clients, getting things done, etc. While interviews help in getting to know someone, starting by hiring someone on a part-time basis is a great way to make sure there is a long-term fit. Another reason why part-time make sense early on is because you are able to receive help earlier than if you brought someone on full-time with a higher salary. In this way, you can start delegating certain things to free up your time in the beginning stages, and then as the new hire gets more acclimated to how your run your firm, they can be promoted to full-time if the workload warrants it.
We'd also like to make the point that every advisor and firm is going to be different when it comes to making their first hire. A common measure is to look at your revenue or profit goals and base the timing decision on that. However, as a business owner, you ultimately make the decision based on what the firm needs. For example, if you know you want to be in front of people, clients, and prospects all the time, it may make sense to make your first hire early on so that you are not stuck doing paperwork or other admin-related tasks. Alternatively, if you are someone that wants to run lean, leveraging technology and a virtual team from the get-go, going that route from day 1 has its advantages.
Making your first hire is a major decision, and there are many different directions that you can go. After thinking through what makes the most sense for your firm, we are confident that you will end up where you need to be.
If you have more questions for us after reading this article, please do not hesitate to contact us here. Also, if you'd like to learn more about how Nifty may make the most sense for your "first hire" as you grow your firm, please get in touch!