When the Boss is the Bottleneck

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,

I have a thriving practice and am very proud of the way it has grown. I have reached a point where everything has to come through me. Every decision, new idea and project needs my attention or response. I realize that I am an “enabler,” but I don’t know how to get myself out of this position. I have a competent staff, but I don’t have someone to whom I can delegate.

Joe D., Illinois

Dear Joe,

This is a common problem for entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, many founders and entrepreneurs eventually find themselves stuck like you.

This is an important transition phase and there are a few things to think about. The simple answer might be hire a good chief operating officer, which is the solution for many firms, but before you do that, answer the following questions:

  1. What do you like to do? What are your strengths? You don’t want to give up things you love in the next phase. Too many founders do that and then find themselves miserable. Identify what you like and what you really want to offload before you make any decisions.
  2. Look at how you spend your day. Where are the bottlenecks? Is some of the problem process or organizational design? Too many times entrepreneurs resist structure, thinking it will stifle creativity. But the bigger you get, the more freedom there is in having predictability and structure for you and your team. Have an organizational chart, assigned responsibilities and processes wherever possible.
  3. With everything that comes across your desk, ask yourself “Is there someone else I can delegate this to in my firm?” Make note of the things that you answer “no” to so you can fully understand what kind of person you are missing. If the answer is “yes,” don’t hesitate to delegate. You admit to being an enabler so you want to consciously change this behavior.
  4. Examine your profitability. You can’t think about hiring new team members if you can’t afford it. Make sure your financial affairs are in order and you know what the impact will be of an addition to staff.

It’s critical for a founder to move out of the entrepreneur-thinker role and into the manager-oversight role. It’s not easy, so think carefully about the questions here before you make your next move.

Dear Bev,

I keep reading about the role of emotions in financial decision-making. We are not trained psychotherapists, nor do we want to be. Our role is to manage money well. It’s annoying to me that we keep talking about the emotional side as if having the financial credentials isn’t enough.

Name Withheld

Dear Financial Advisor,

I can’t help but think part of your statement is directed at me! After all, I talk about soft skills and people issues in this column.

That said, it’s an unfortunate truth that while you need to be credentialed to manage money, and probably have a passion for it if you pursued this as a career, the money belongs to people. And people are more emotional than logical. This is particularly true when it comes to money. The only thing closer to a person than their health and their children is their money!

Think about the very personal and intimate areas in one’s life. You don’t need to be a psychotherapist, nor are your clients expecting you to, but you need to have a genuine interest in people. What do they care about? What makes them tick? What worries do they have?

Ask the “why?” questions when you meet with clients – Why does that matter to you? Why is that important? Why do you believe that to be true? We can’t help people unless we understand the problem we are trying to solve. You may invest their money well but miss an important life concern they have in the process. While the returns are there in the portfolio, the satisfaction level may not be if you are overlooking what’s important. It doesn’t require returning to school and becoming a therapist But it does require showing genuine interest in your clients. They aren’t a component of your AUM; they are emotional beings.

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, MSNBC.com, 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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