When the Boss’ Daughter Gets in the Way

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,

We have a situation where our founder’s daughter is now involved in the business. She is aggressive, nasty and condescending to the people who work here. She likes me so I haven’t had a problem. But I see how she treats others. It’s a small advisory firm and she is creating a toxic climate. The worst part is that the clients, for the most part, don’t like her either. I tried to broach this with our founder in a nice way but he thinks she walks on water. I am afraid we are going to lose staff and clients if we don’t address this issue.

Name withheld

Dear Financial Advisor,

This is a very difficult situation. While I have dedicated my career to problem-solving, the longer I do it the more I realize there are some situations that are just impossible to fix. This could be one of them.

My best advice would have been to speak to her dad, your founder. But, there is one more thing you can try before you give up entirely. I have found that many aggressive people (or those perceived to be so) don’t realize how off-putting they are to others. Behaviorally you may have a “nice” culture where people don’t speak to each other in a conflict-inducing manner. She may just be misfit for the culture as it’s been to date. If you are the one with a good relationship, take her aside – out of the office – for coffee or tea. Ask her what her intentions are? Is she trying to shake things up? Does she realize how some people are reacting to her? What’s her objective?

In a non-confrontational and a non-threatening manner, try to help her see how she is coming across – in the eyes of others. Don’t try to “prove” your points by quoting others; just reflect on your own experiences.

Some people don’t realize how they come across – and that they get a different response than they are seeking because of their behavioral style. That said, there are others who like to be bullies. They enjoy causing distress. Not knowing which side she falls on makes it hard to gauge what the outcome will be.

Your best option is to appeal to her directly. If that doesn’t work, I’m afraid you just have to hope she will “blow up” and her father will see more clearly. Good luck.

Dear Bev,

I work for a financial technology firm that sells to advisors. I read a lot of industry periodicals to understand more about their world and their issues. One thing frustrates me: There is a lot of inertia with advisors when it comes to decision-making. I will be at the end of a sales cycle just waiting for a contract to be signed and it sits forever. No matter how much I follow up sometimes it feels like we never even spoke. What don’t I understand about advisors and their needs?

Name Withheld

Dear Financial Technology Professional,

While you provided your name, I am going to withhold it so the advisors in your pipeline don’t know we are talking about them! I always ask salespeople whether it is really “inertia” that is the problem, or whether they are not qualifying well enough to start with in the process. Just because an advisor, or any prospect, says they are interested to learn and might even say they have a problem they need to solve, that doesn’t mean they are motivated to do anything about it at that time.

It’s all about priorities – how much pain they are in and whether they want to focus on this purchase at the expense of something else.

Think about the life of the advisor. They are focused on the investment markets, their clients, regulations and compliance, new sales, their employees, profitability, increasing costs and operational issues, just to name a few. They are also called on by numerous people, especially wholesalers and salespeople like you. There is a lot to focus on and a lot to consider.

You have to work as a partner with the advisor. Listen to them. Understand what really matters. Validate what problem you are helping them to solve. Confirm their priorities and what they expect them to be going forward. Help them define a successful outcome.

It’s not enough to just sell your product or pitch what you do – no matter how good it is and how excited you may be about it. You have to do true consultative selling. You may think you are already doing this, but I have yet to meet a salesperson that couldn’t improve their qualification process somehow. Examine what you are doing and see where you can try something new.

And never, ever send the contract or paperwork for signature until the advisor has confirmed they are ready, and willing to sign!

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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