Dealing with Unmotivated Advisors

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 with unmotivated advisors? Most of the senior partners in my firm are wealthy and set for life. They are not inclined to go out of their comfort zone to find new business. How do I light a fire underneath them and get them motivated?

Name withheld

Dear Financial Advisor,

If I had the secret to motivating others, I could sell it for a fortune. Every parent of a teenager would want to know how to do it too.

That said, everyone is motivated for their own reasons. We can create an environment for motivation to occur, but it is up to the person involved to take the step.

First, look at whether you are incenting the advisors sufficiently.

Do you have a comp plan that is meaningful and rewards individuals if they get new business and “dings” them if they don’t? If they are able to make a nice living without finding new business, they will take the easier route.

Do you have consistency of message around how important selling is to the firm? Do you talk about sales, finding new clients and prospect status in meetings or in one-to-one talks?

Are the advisors trained to sell? Do they need skill development or support to be more confident in selling and if so, have you offered appropriate resources to them?

Have you created a culture of growth where advisors are focused on finding new business and understand the importance to the firm’s long-term success?

If you can answer yes to all of these questions and you have done everything possible to create an environment for motivation, have a heart-to-heart with each advisor. Ask them about their obstacles, make sure they are clear about expectations and keep an open line of communication with them so you know they are focused every day.

Many firms, large and small, have their highly paid people doing too many low-ROI activities. Make sure you have cleared the way for your advisors to focus on the highest gain activities each moment of each day.

Dear Bev,

I am struggling with next steps for my firm. I am in my early 50s and not interested in retiring, but want to create a plan. I enjoy mentoring and coaching and pursuing my philanthropic interests. How can I determine what’s best for me in the next 10 years?

Neil G., Northern Florida

Dear Neil,

Sounds like you need a career coach! The issue of planning for next steps is obviously a big one in our industry, given the number of advisors in their 50s and 60s and older. Even if you work until you can’t do so anymore, you want to have a plan for disability or illness.

To determine what’s best for you, list the classic pros and cons for each option you are considering. Develop columns to represent each of your possible paths and then list the associated pros and cons.

Most importantly, think about why you assigned the pro or con to that option. What’s underneath your thoughts – what do you most care about? Establish your values and prioritize them.

Hire someone to talk through the options. It’s helpful to have a third-party outsider listen to you and provide feedback based on what they hear. They should not tell you what to do, but act as a sounding board.

Take the time to work through this issue. You don’t want to have regrets as the years roll on that you didn’t do so.

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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