Priorities For Each Phase of Your Practice

Your practice will go through many stages of development as you start, grow, and eventually leave the business. In order to successfully develop your practice along the way, it’s important to know where to focus your efforts and what your practice should look like in each stage.

Typically, a financial practice will go through four stages of development:

  1. Solo Advisor: An individual advisor building a book of business
  2. Advisor with Support: An advisor with some support staff, such as administrative support
  3. Team Practice: A business operation with multiple advisors and teams
  4. Transition: Practice owner hands practice over to successor

How long a practice stays in each phase varies greatly and is largely determined by the focus and professional goals of the practice leader. Many practices can stay in phase 1 or phase 2 for the life of the practice, skipping phase 3 entirely and rushing through the transition. However, recent M&A activity is changing the composition of the industry, and now more practices are growing along this four-phase curve. As your business evolves along that curve, your goals as a practice leader, activities, and role will change significantly in each phase.

Phases of Financial Advisory Practices

Priorities for Each Phase of Your Financial Practice

Solo Advisor

As a solo advisor, your time and energy are primarily centered around acquiring and serving clients. During this time, you start to identify your target client and home in on your unique value and style as a financial advisor. Your focus during this phase should be on the following:

  • Who you are serving – defining your market niche and target client
  • What do you offer – what makes you unique, what is your investment approach, what services and products do you offer
  • Delivering consistent, quality service – developing a client centered mentality and providing a reliable experience

During this time, you may seek out support to help you with executive coaching [link to EC page], so you can have an experienced sound board and guidance on how to address key challenges in your practice. You may also leverage guidance and education on case preparation, financial planning, and guardian/continuity planning.

Advisors with Support

In this phase, your business has grown to a point where you need assistance in order to continue growing and/or to properly serve your client. This is when you begin to establish key items that will help you work with others to serve the client. Specifically, you will need to focus on:

  • Creating structure – defining how the practice will operate
  • Developing systems – creating predictable and reliable systems and processes to run the practice
  • Defining roles & responsibilities – establishing who is responsible for what and creating methods of accountability

This phase is your first true growth phase, helping you move away from solo practitioner toward a true financial advisor business. It will require you to start developing new skills, thought processes, and capabilities as an individual, not just in your practice. An executive coach can help keep you focused and responsible for executing the development of your systems as well as help you identify and develop any skills you are lacking as a practice leader. You may also seek out expertise on practice management and on pursuing your first acquisition, which will push you into the next phase.

Team Practices

In this stage you truly begin to build a financial advisor business, not just a practice. Generally, your role will begin to shift away from client work and more toward operational and strategic activities. During this time, you will need to focus on:

  • Developing CEO thinking – you will need to learn to think and act like a CEO, not just as a financial advisor
  • Brand Building – create a clear brand and aligning your marketing, operations, and staff around the core values and goals of that brand
  • Building and Protecting Equity – understanding what drives practice value and aligning operations and strategy to drive that value in a positive direction

In this phase you are looking at how to drive growth, improve value, strengthen operations, and ensure continuity of client assets and revenue. Executive coaching will continue to be a valuable tool to help you develop as a leader and guide you through critical decisions. Acquisitions will become a bigger part of your growth strategy and will require you to leverage acquisition experts to help you identify, finance, and facilitate an acquisition. You will need to leverage tools such as an AFA Analysis to help you structure fair and profitable compensation models for potential team members. You will also need to start developing your succession plan and work with a guide to help you define your goals for yourself and the business after you leave.


In this phase you are actively working toward your exit from the business. Whether it is a complete exit or a transition into a business advisor role, your energy is geared toward removing you from the helm. Specifically, your attention will center around:

  • Finding the Right Successor – locating an internal or external successor who will buy out your interest in the business while carrying forward your client service legacy
  • Doing the Deal – structuring and navigating a deal that meets your goals and results in a successful outcome
  • Transitioning – shifting to retirement or to a reduced role within the firm with little to no disruption to the client experience

In this phase it is critical to identify knowledgeable experts who will serve your best interests. You want someone who can help guide you through the emotional journey and help you locate the best steward of your legacy. Your expertise is not in practice sales, and in order to protect your equity and reputation it’s imperative that you leverage an experienced professional to help you set your goals for your exit, identify buyers who are a good organizational fit, strengthen your value and maximize your return on business equity, and help you navigate the entire deal and transition.

In all phases, it is critical to know and understand what drives value and know what your practice value truly is. Securing a professional business valuation in regular intervals will help you develop a clear understanding of how your practice Is performing over time. This will help you make smarter decisions at every phase of your practice development.

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