Dealing with a Lazy Partner

Beverly Flaxington

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues.  To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

What do you do in a partnership where one advisor (me) is aggressive, works late every night, brings in a lot of new business and the other (my partner) is lazy? It’s beginning to annoy me that while I work hard, he just reaps the benefits without an equal contribution.

Mike C., San Antonio, TX

Dear Mike,

“Lazy”?? First, let’s assume positive intent and refrain from labeling the behavior. I don’t know how long the two of you have run the advisory firm together, but if it has been a long time maybe your partner is just slowing down and getting tired.  I’m not sure that it is good for anyone to be working late every night, either, although I understand at quarter end, with clients seeking information, from time-to-time it is necessary.

The two of you need to revisit your working relationship and establish some ground rules. Unfortunately, we often assume that with a legal agreement or partnership agreement in place, we’re set. But human behavior comes into play and, at least once a year, partners should sit down and talk about their working relationship, expectations, requests and desired culture for the firm.

Ask your partner to go out for coffee or lunch, to have the initial discussion if you haven’t talked about personal things in a while. Don’t storm into his office and demand new ground rules! Be very careful about loaded language such as “lazy” or “less contribution.” These are judgmental terms and he will get very defensive.

First, probe what he is thinking. What does he want from the business now, what are his priorities and what expectations does he have? Then share your viewpoint: you feel as if you are continuing to be very aggressive and he seems to have “pulled back” a bit. Or, tell him you are missing his old spark and enthusiasm. Frame your comments in a way that will pull him out – not make him retreat.

When you come to agreement about what each of you will do and commit to, write them down. Get in the habit of reviewing them once per year and updating them when necessary. It can be called a roadmap, ground rules, cultural expectations or anything like this. 

Dear Bev,

How do you avoid analysis paralysis when it comes to making decisions for your firm? I’ve observed that paralysis can happen to clients and prospects, too – people can get overwhelmed when presented with too many options. Is there a good rule of thumb when it comes to the number of options one should present?

Lisa B, Southern California

Dear Lisa,

Analysis paralysis hits us all from time to time. But because some people prefer to think things through, or like to have all of the data possible before making a decision, it will be harder on some than others. Let’s separate your question – there are tips for you to use to get over being “stuck,” and there are things you want to think about with others (i.e. clients and prospects).

When it comes to others you need to make a decision (such as a prospect in the sales process), be sure to ask questions upfront about their style and their decision-making process: What steps do you usually go through to make a decision? When making decisions like this in the past, what information was important to you? What obstacles might you face in reaching a decision? We’re hesitant to pry sometimes, but we need to know those answers to serve the prospect well. The more you know up front, the better you can organize the process to give the client or prospect what they need.

If you struggle with analysis paralysis, there are a few ideas here, too. It’s helpful to lay out options in a written format and go through a pros and cons list on paper or with a group if it is a team decision. Ask yourself some of the following questions, too: If I cannot make a decision right now, what am I resisting? What do I think is missing?

Try to understand the source of the paralysis. Start to map out an “as if” plan. Act as if you have made a decision in one direction. What would you do next? What steps would you need to take? Do it with all of the options you are considering, so you can play out where you might wind up with that choice. It’s often the case that we need to spend the time to understand our own inner workings to help us get unstuck.

And no more than three options should be considered at any one time. This is a case where more is definitely less effective!

Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995; in 2008 she co-founded Advisors Trusted Advisor to offer dedicated practice management resources to advisors, planners and wealth managers.  She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate students Leadership & Social Responsibility. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).

She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal,, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.


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