You’ve decided to put your exit strategy in motion. Maybe you’ve identified a buyer, or you’re considering multiple successors who’ve expressed interest in your practice, or you just decided an hour ago that now is the time to sell. At whatever stage you’re in, your top priority is to protect your clients and deliver a smooth transition that they’ve come to expect after years of working with you.
After facilitating the sale of financial practices as a neutral third-party seller advocate, mediating hundreds of M&A deals, and designing succession plans since 2012, we’ve determined four key considerations that will effectively prepare your clients for your exit.
Leverage Your Client Management System
Formulating the client experience into an organized, well-documented process within a client management system (CMS) can help avoid disruption in communication, appointments, and other routines that your clients depend on, during the transition process. An effective CMS also paints a clear picture for the successor firm to personalize client interactions, prepare for appointments, and thoroughly understand the intricacies of your client demographic.
A CMS is an investment of both time and budget. Not all financial practices, particularly smaller businesses, maintain or even have one. If this is true for you, our recommendation is to define and formalize your client engagement practices with information such as:
Personalized or marketed touchpoints throughout the year
Appointment history and notes as well as upcoming appointments
A tiered client structure
Preferred methods of communication and unique other unique preferences
Consider what the client would want your successor to know about them
Effective use of a client management system will allow the successor to deepen relationships with existing clients, and maintain or exceed the revenue potential
Ensure Transparency and Timely Communication
Transparency plays a vital role in the transition process. Your best approach is to be open and honest about your retirement plans, sharing information about the timeline and the steps you'll take to ensure a smooth handover to help clients warm up to the idea of change. You might work with your buyer to include an introduction to the successor advisor, provide background information, or facilitate an introduction or transition meeting. Transparent communication fosters trust and helps clients understand that their best interests are being considered throughout the process.
By prioritizing timeliness and transparency, your clients can effectively navigate the transition. It ensures continuity in their financial planning and allows for a seamless transfer of knowledge and trust to the successor advisor, enabling your clients to continue working towards their financial goals with confidence.
Deliver A Familiar and Consistent Message with Multiple Touchpoints
While you may have clients on the books who’ve formed relationships with your associate advisor(s), your personal brand might still play a significant role in their loyalty and trust in the practice. When extending a personal phone call to every client is unrealistic, consider an outreach plan that includes multiple touchpoints and a personalized approach such as video recordings or interactive webinars to relay your message.
Video messages are fantastic additions to email communications as it reintroduces the “human element” to your communication and allows clients to read your demeanor and tone within the message. This is particularly advantageous for communications that have a significant impact on the recipient. With video messaging, authenticity is key. Show up however you present yourself in front of clients and avoid being too structured or formal – unless that’s just you!
Since the pandemic, even those who consider themselves tech-avoidant have become familiar and comfortable with joining webinar sessions. Hosting a short webinar session, or a few, where clients have the option to submit questions or simply have a space to “come along” with the transition process, will further ensure that trust and transparency is maintained.
Remain Involved Post-Sale
Unforeseen life events don’t always allow advisors to remain involved and on staff, as part of an exit plan. When it can be helped, we’ve observed that the most successful transitions include the seller continuing on staff for one to three years post-sale, but more so, that their employees are included in the acquisition agreement should they choose to stay.
Seller agreements often include the seller and/or employees remaining on staff post-sale. This is advantageous for all parties involved. In doing so, it’s essential that key stakeholders establish terms and respond to growing pains with flexibility and consideration for the best interest of all involved.
Free E-Book: 5 Most Common Post-Transition Roles for Sellers
All said, consider which of the advice provided today really resonates with your client demographic. Don’t forget about your tier II and tier III clients and ensure your communication plan delivers a personalized message to them, even if it’s not one-on-one. Most importantly, all of your efforts in advocating for your clients, providing transparency, and finding virtual solutions to connect with your clients in preparation for your transition will all be lost if your successor advisor isn’t the right fit. Check out SRG’s Seller Advocacy Program to consider the best options for you and your clients.