It may sound contrarian, but if you are interested in buying a business, do yourself a favor and never ask the question, “Can I buy your practice?” Experienced advisors that have bought a business before know this to be true, and the reason is simple. The question ignores the fundamental realities of practice acquisition in the financial services industry. In the financial services business, the person who says “yes” to the question, “do you want to sell?” is not necessarily the type of person from whom you want to buy a practice.
Here is what you need to know about practice acquisition:
Successful practices are built on trust, so are successful acquisitions
Practice acquisition is not the financial transaction that occurs. It is the transfer of trust from the selling advisor to the purchasing advisor. Deals, valuation, contracts, pay-outs, and financing are unimportant if the trust factor has been ignored.
#1 Issue – are you a worthy successor?
LIMRA International/McKinsey Company’s, “Forces of Change” study identified the number one issue for a senior advisor to not plan for succession was their inability to find a successor worthy of the opportunity. If you want to acquire practices, you have to get yourself in a position to be deemed worthy by the senior advisor. Worthiness is most often built through deeds and not just words.
#2 Issue – What will you do to help the selling advisor let go?
The study mentioned above identified the second largest obstacle to succession planning as letting go of client relationships. In many cases, clients and/or policy holders of senior advisors have had long relationships getting their advice and may even be neighbors or friends. Looking a friend in the eye and saying, “trust that person the way you trusted me”, is very difficult for anyone. Your job is to find a way to help that senior advisor feel comfortable with letting go.
There is no established market in the industry for transfer of risk-based practices.
If you are looking for an insurance focused practice, its important to know rules for practice acquisition and transfer differ from company to company and product to product. There is no standard in the insurance industry. Each company’s contract is different. Each state’s regulations are different. No company is required to appoint you as servicing agent of a book of business simply because you have an agreement with one of their reps. This requires you to work closely with your management team when dealing with unaffiliated producers.
Baby Boomers Are Retiring
40% of all producers plan on retiring in the next 5 to 6 years and a approximately 20% have identified a successor. 60% admit to having no plan what so ever. This is a golden opportunity for the advisor who recognizes the situation and takes steps to put themselves in a position to be considered a potential successor. The possibilities are endless.
So, how do you get started? Treat every advisor you meet as if they are a potential client. Gather information. Get to know them. Let them get to know you. When the time is right, ask this question – “Have you ever considered the type of person it will take to service your clients when you finally decide to slow down?” The question will eventually elicit the following response, “why did you ask that question?” Your response is, “I asked because I might like to apply for the job of serving your clients.”
Try it. It works.
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