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'Being Done' for the Smaller Firm

Advisors weigh in on limiting business growth to balance personal growth.

David J. Drucker, 07/17/2008

The basis of these articles is the concept of "being done," as advanced by coach Bill Bachrach of Bachrach & Associates Inc. in San Diego.

Bachrach likes to tell his advisor clients that they're done growing their practices when 1) they run out of time to serve more clients and don't see degrading the quality of their services in order to free up time as a solution, and 2) they're serving only clients who meet their ideal client profile. Of course, there are other, ancillary signs you're done, say Bachrach, like being able to clearly communicate the span and quality of services you provide and the types of clients you enjoy serving.

The problem is this: Not all advisors identify with this concept.

"There's a real separation in our industry between individual or small groups of professionals, and those building businesses around professional services," said Brian Hamburger, head of the Hamburger Law Firm LLC in Englewood, N.J. "The issue seems to apply only to the former. A true business operation would never be in a position of degrading its service to make time for new clients."

Are only smaller firms likely to fit the issue of "being done?" Not necessarily but, by definition, they're more likely to identify with the issue because small firms--unless the owner is just starting out--are usually small by design. Behind most small firms are practitioners who want to lead a certain lifestyle, and that is a priority to which they adapt their business model. Many are quite clear on how large they want their firms to get in terms of clients served because anything greater than their established target will mean hiring employees (or more employees) and that, in itself, is lifestyle-changing, since people management is a different job from client management.

Let's examine some of these practices to understand the kinds of lifestyle goals their owners have set for themselves and by which they have defined their firms' growth limits.

Hourly planner Cheryl Krueger of Growing Fortunes Financial Partners, LLC in Schaumburg, Ill., has a "being done" goal of working with 80 clients per year, based on her expected available hours, paraplanner assistance, and desired time-off goals.

"Since I'll always have new clients, I won't strictly meet that part of the 'being done' criteria," she said. "But Bill Bachrach's 'being done' goal helps me keep a balanced life, and that's very important to me."

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