How Do We Select a New Name for Our Firm?
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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We are changing the name of our firm. We have recently acquired a couple of individual advisors who had run practices using their own names. Our firm was originally named for the downtown street where we had our office when we were founded almost 30 years ago. We have since moved and the new partners have no association with our original name.
We realize it is a big process – changing everything. But we are very excited about the chance to work together to bring about a collaborative approach with our new partners.
What’s the best way to go about doing this? Are there names we should definitely stay away from in our search? Some team members are getting out of the box and I’m not sure our clients (who are mostly in or near retirement) would like high-tech-sounding names. I’m also not sure if we should be wealth management, financial planning, life planning or simply “advisory,” which is what our firm is now.
There is a world of possibilities but then there actually is not.
I’ve had many clients go through a name-change process, often when my firm is doing branding work with them. One of the hardest things I have found is identifying a name that no other advisory firm is using. You might all agree on something but then go through the re-branding effort only to get a letter in the mail saying you are infringing on someone else’s trademark.
Identify what you are searching for. Here are the best steps to do this:
- Don’t start by trying to come up with the catchy name. Pull those interested in being involved in the process into the conference room (real or virtual) and brainstorm how clients think about working with you. Create a list of what you do well and why. Answer the “so what?” question – why is what we do valuable to clients? Open your minds to ideas about what you do and why you do it. Throw in some cultural value ideas – what’s it like to work for your firm? Why did the new partners join? What did they identify about you that was appealing?
- Once you have created this list, which could include many ideas, circle the ones that are most meaningful to the team and where people agree. Again, this is not to choose the name, but to create a path forward and gain agreement on themes.
- Look at the list and have people, individually, brainstorm ideas for what names come to mind associated with who you are and what you do. There are two possible ways of doing this – if you are in person, have people write ideas on colorful sticky notes and put them on the wall. Don’t discuss, just post your ideas. Or, if you are virtual have people write out ideas in a chat function or on a piece of paper to be circulated prior to the virtual call. Don’t associate the idea with the person, you are just trying to create a list of possibilities.
- Group the similar ideas together. Then open it up for discussion, what are the pros and cons of each direction? Do people like something but you need to refine it or enhance it somehow?
- Once you have a final list, start your search. I will often just start by putting a name into Google and seeing what firms I come up with. I will put all of the possibilities “Collaborative Wealth Management/Collaborative Financial Advisors/Collaborative Financial Planning” etc. (This is not meant to direct you to firm with this name, it is simply an example). Often times you will find someone is using a tag line, or marketing copy but not the actual name.
- If you cannot find a firm with this name, you can always take one more step and either hire someone at a site like LegalZoom to go out and search or just put the name into Trademarkia.com and search for free.
- Once you have determined your name is free and clear, talk about whether you want to be known as advisors, wealth managers, financial planners or other. This decision should be based on how to describe your offering to prospects and clients and what you do for clients.
It is a great opportunity to participate in a new direction together. Take these steps to make it a worthwhile opportunity and fruitful for all.
We are trying to attract advisors to our firm and are struggling to find those who are a good fit. Even if we like the person, we find their investment philosophy isn’t a fit or their client type is so far off from ours. We have had several conversations that have seemed encouraging at the outset only to end in disappointment.
What are other advisory firms doing now to attract the best partners?
Many of the clients I work with have been lamenting this very problem lately. There is a lot of activity in the M & A space, and advisors with attractive books of business have several options.
However, you are doing the right thing by identifying the cultural fit before you go down the road of finalizing an acquisition. The messiest situations are those that end up with the deal taking place, but then the combined firm trying to make sense of very different approaches to doing business.
Consider whether joining your firm is attractive for the advisor. Are you clear on what you are offering? Many times, I find advisory firms will put a lot of emphasis on marketing to end clients. But when they think about advisors, they make an assumption that it is clear why an advisor would want to join them. Put more effort into the “why join us?” question up front and outlining very clearly who you are and what you have to offer an advisor who might join.
Qualify the advisor. What is he or she looking for in a firm? Do they want to stay engaged or not? Are they looking to become an involved partner or do they want to find a place to move clients because they are ready to retire? This might help you throughout the process with understanding what matters most and identifying those things up front.
Of course, you can always talk to your custodian or one of the great M & A firms to help with this process. The custodians are invested in keeping assets on their platforms, so they can often make an introduction and they know the firms inside and out. Check out www.RIAMatch.com as well where they have different levels of service and could guide you through this process.
Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995. The firm also founded and manages the Advisors Sales Academy. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate and graduate students Entrepreneurship and Leading Teams. 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.