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'Being Done' for the Larger Firm

There are shades of gray, particularly within larger firms.

David J. Drucker, 07/17/2008

In this month's companion article, we've taken a look at some advisors who identify with Bill Bachrach's concept of "being done" as a way of meeting both their entrepreneurial and lifestyle goals. They tend to be owners of smaller firms because, by definition, "being done" means capping growth.

Yet, many advisors pooh-pooh completely the notion of "being done." Are they more serious and more professional than their small-firm counterparts--or just differently motivated? Let's examine some of these practices, er ... businesses, to find out.

"I haven't given much thought to our firm 'being done' because the owners--after Gary retires at the end of this year--will have an average age of 39 and our firm still has the capacity to take on clients without reducing our service level," Tom Orecchio said, referring to Gary Greenbaum, who started the Old Tappan, N.J. firm Orecchio and others will inherit--presently named "Greenbaum and Orecchio, Inc."--in the early 1980s. "In fact, we average less than 50 client relationships per wealth manager [each of whom has a support team]. My definition of being done is when it's no longer fun to come to work." Orecchio is clearly focused on preserving the financial planning fun-factor; he simply accomplishes it in the context of a larger firm, within which he is one advisor.

All of which suggests that "being done" isn't a black and white phenomenon; there are shades of gray--particularly within larger firms.

Chad Tennant is part of a larger firm--Summit Wealth Management, Inc.--that not only incorporates the concept of "being done" within a multiprofessional firm, but does so quite vocally in its Web site message, which describes the owners' vision of the firm as being the "personal chief financial officer" for "100 ideal clients."

"When a person is 'done,' they are no longer actively seeking or adding clients. They have enough clients to generate the revenue they need to fund their lifestyle, pay the bills, and fund the accomplishment of their goals," he said. "Because the advisor doesn't need more money, he or she doesn't need more clients, and therefore they can focus 100% of their time on their current clients. The level of service an advisor can provide to a finite number of clients will always be better for the client and the advisor."

Tennant estimated that he'll have an additional 15 hours a week to spend on his clients once the firm is "done," and he doesn't have to devote that time to marketing or the absorption of new clients.

By contrast, Cheryl Holland, who runs the 18-year-old firm Abacus Planning Group, Inc. in Columbia, S.C., adds team members as needed to handle growing numbers of clients.

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