CEO Insights

“Work on Your Business Instead of In The Business.”

The ultra-modern, open-plan offices many firms use to showcase their forward thinking often come replete with motivational quotes painted on the walls. These quotes, often pulled from business luminaries, look down on the employees throughout the work day.

But those inspirational words frequently fall flat when management fails to match words with deeds.

“If the words are on the wall but they’re not lived by, is that really a culture?” Andrea Schlapia, the Founder of Ironstone, once asked a client firm. “And the answer was no for that particular team, which changed their mindset. We can talk about vision and mission but if it’s just a bunch of words versus people living by it and putting it into play then that’s going to absolutely affect the bottom-line results.”

Ironstone, based in Florida, provides performance consulting and executive coaching to financial advisors throughout the country with between $250 million and $1 billion in assets under management." The firm assists clients with strategic planning, business development, operational effectiveness, and a fourth area Schlapia described as the human element of an advisory practice. Together these elements make up the “Fundamental 4™” framework that Ironstone applies to develop custom solutions to clients’ challenges.

Andrea 400x550“We really are helping clients look at their team, their entire business, and look through this framework of the Fundamental 4™,” said Schlapia, who is a Registered Corporate Coach (RCC), Human Capital Strategies (HCS), and Strategic HR Business Partner (sHRBP). She also said that the firm delivers tailored solutions after carefully assessing client needs. “We don’t want to ever assume that we’ll walk into someone’s business and pull something off the shelf and say, ‘Here it is.’”

‘A-plus advisors, C-minus business owners’
Wealth management practices often expand quickly, snapping up clients and assets under management in a short amount of time. The strengths that make a good advisor, however, do not necessarily translate into running an effective business, and even experienced wealth managers may struggle to create efficient workflows and business processes.

“We find that people are already strong in their strategic planning and business development,” Schlapia said. “We don’t work with complete startups, usually mid-level advisors who are A-plus advisors but C-minus business owners; operational effectiveness is a problem.”

Advisors who struggle to run a tight ship need a good coach. But the alphabet soup of coaching certifications makes it easy for almost anyone to call themselves an executive coach, and hiring the wrong one can be a serious mistake. The wrong coach can not only waste considerable time and money, but one bad experience is all it takes to sour an executive on coaching in general.

“Too often people put the title “coach” at the end of their name, and I would challenge anyone that is looking at a coaching consultant to verify what kind of certification and coaching training that they’ve been through and really have an understanding of their methodology,” Schlapia said.

Business owners need to ask the right questions before signing on with a coach. References from past clients can help, but more important is whether the coach has a strong “cultural match” with the firm. Chemistry plays an important role between the executive, their firm, and the coach; a competent coach might help one advisor make powerful changes but falter in a different company. Choosing the right coach is almost as much about “fit” and “chemistry” as it is about credentials, training, and past successes, Schlapia said.

Advisor island
Independent wealth advisors often feel isolated while building their practices. The actual business of pursuing client leads and developing portfolios consumes time, energy, and resources. That leaves precious little time for cultivating company culture, especially for advisors inexperienced at running their own firms who may feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work that needs to be done. But culture eats strategy for breakfast, as the late management guru Peter Drucker said – some argue the quote is apocryphal – and underlies everything the firm does.

“The culture of the company is going to impact the bottom-line results,” Schlapia said. “Leaving that unattended is going to be a huge risk for any firm.”

andrea quote550x400To that end, Ironstone works with clients to build effective company cultures. Whether that means helping executives foster a culture of inclusion – particularly valued among millennial generation employees – or a focus on professional development, Schlapia said the most successful clients are those willing to take a step back and look logically at the problems inside their firms.

“One of the best practices we really instill is called the Development Day,” she said. “Teams with the highest rate of implementation and results are the ones that close the doors once per month to create an open dialog and improve collaboration.”

A collaborative, inclusive culture allows firms to tackle pressing problems and accomplish goals. Wealth advisors who ignore building an effective culture often find that their firms grow in fits and starts, and that many goals can be left unaccomplished.

“Work on your business instead of in the business,” Schlapia said. “If you don’t do that then you will miss the opportunities to grow in the right way. That’s where we want to guide teams is to have purposeful growth, not just growth for growth’s sake.”

Ironstone also works with clients to develop staff in other ways. The company is developing the Ironstone Lab, to provide “on-demand” content and educational experiences including tools, templates, resource guides, videos, courses and peer collaboration that help advisory professionals improve training and performance. The Lab is another innovation that Ironstone brings to the isolated independent firm that needs help not in the “front-end” work of managing clients’ investments, but the “back-end” tasks needed to maintain the firm’s foundation and effectiveness.

Schlapia often shares her clients' struggles as well to highlight that the difficulties they face are neither unique nor self-inflicted. It can be difficult for an independent advisor to realize that many firms deal with the same issues, she said.

“Independent advisors are kind of on an island by themselves," she said. "Sharing real-world examples truly helps them move forward and see that the gaps are achievable if they take the time to work on them.”

For more information on Ironstone, visit: IronstoneHQ.com

 

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