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How to Grow Your Practice from $30 million to $150 million AUM and Exit – On Your Terms

When growing your book of business, you can either build it from scratch yourself or join up with another advisor and purchase their practice. Today’s guest is most experienced in the latter, and he’s here to share the insights, benefits, and perils of buying (and selling) your business.

Brad Amlin has put in more than 17 years in the financial services business. His primary area of expertise is financial, estate and tax planning, focusing on strategies that include the use of life insurance and investment vehicles. He works with both business owners and high net worth individuals.

Brad has also been through numerous business transitions, both as the advisor buying practices and, more recently, as the one selling his own business. Listen in to hear how Brad built a $30 million AUM business to $150 million – and why he decided to sell.

What You’ll Learn in This Episode: 

  • How Brad sought out clients in his early days as an independent advisor (8:15)
  • How Brad built Cornwall Wealth Management from $30 million to $150 million AUM (12:35)
  • What Brad looks for in clients (24:45)
  • How to help your clients through a business transition (28:50)
  • Why Brad’s practice has both MFDA and IIROC advisors (31:30)
  • Major challenges when undergoing a business transition (33:35) 

Links and Resources: 

Email Brad

Cornwall Wealth Management

The Personal Coach 

Quotes by Brad Amlin: 

“Success really revolves around the continuity of who the client’s dealing with.”

“Even if you do want to, over time, rebrand the company, I think maintaining the brand… for a specified period of time post-transition really helps the continuity and maintains that client.”

“I find the challenge to be maintaining confidence and maintaining that ‘up’ feeling in an environment that seems to be rapidly shifting through regulatory change.”

While Brad started his financial services career working for a bank, he’s since had quite the career building and buying financial advisory businesses; at its peak, his practice had $150 million AUM. In his mid-forties, he decided it was time to sell his business to another advisor and get back to what he loves best: time and working directly with clients.

Below, we’re sharing three key ideas from this episode:

  • What Brad looks for in clients
  • How to help your clients through a business transition
  • Solutions to 3 major business transition challenges

For the rest of the episode, find the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or hit the link above.

What Brad looks for in clients

Now that he’s sold his business and no longer needs to worry about strategy and operations quite as much, Brad has the freedom to be more picky about which clients he wants to work with. There are two characteristics he looks at first when choosing which clients he wants to keep working with.

Clients who listen

Brad now works just with the clients who listen to what he has to say and are willing to put in the work to put his advice into practice. While some consumers just shop around until they find an advisor who will tell them what they want to hear, Brad likes working with people who are ready to hear the truth and act on it.

Clients he can relate to

Brad most enjoys working with clients who are within his age group. He finds that clients in their forties and fifties see retirement looming and are therefore more motivated to take advice. As well, they’re just at a similar point in their lives as he is, and it makes it that much easier to relate to one another.

How to help your clients through a business transition

In his experience going through numerous business transitions, Brad has found that maintaining the client experience is the most important. As he puts it, “success really revolves around the continuity of who the client’s dealing with.”

For this reason, when talking to his clients, he positioned his recent business sale as a strategic alliance. He’s not broadcasting to them that he sold equity in the business – they don’t need to know all that. While the logo may be different, all they care about is that they now have more offerings and people available to help them than they did before.

In time, the advisor who bought Brad’s business may make further changes. But letting clients adjust to the transition and see that nothing drastic has shifted in the level of service is key to keeping the relationships running smoothly.

Hint: For more on keeping your clients happy while navigating transitions in your business, listen to our episode with Jim Greenwood. Jim shares the two most important values that he’s keeping at the forefront while helping another advisor transition out of the industry.

Solutions to 3 major business transition challenges

Having gone through several business transitions now – on both ends of the deal – Brad has seen his fair share of challenges coming up. Here are the biggest three, along with the solutions that helped him overcome them.

The clients aren’t the right fit

When you build a book of business from the ground up, you have the chance to pick clients who see eye to eye with you, and the clients can grow with you as you develop your practice. When buying a book of business, however, it’s hard to know whether the clients will be a good fit.

Solution:

Luckily, Brad foresaw this potential problem when he bought his first business, and he avoided it proactively. He and the senior advisor agreed to a one-year trial where Brad would work under the advisor and get to know the clients and the business. When it came time to buy the practice, Brad was sure it was a good fit. He had also begun noticing ways he could grow the business, so when he took over, he was ready to hit the ground running.

A lack of mentorship

One major challenge Brad experienced was working with the financial advisor whose business he first bought. While Brad had been expecting a mentor to show him the ropes in the first several months of working together, it turned out that the other advisor was too busy to spend much time with Brad at all – he was essentially left to his own devices and felt like he was floundering for several months.

Solution:

Brad’s firm hired a business coach (The Personal Coach) – someone he could be accountable to and who could help build his confidence in the business. Together, they created a value proposition, wrote scripts that Brad could use, roleplayed different scenarios and brainstormed how he could reach out to prospects. It was exactly what he’d been missing from his senior advisor.

Loneliness

This one’s more related to running a financial advising practice in general – Brad has found that it can be a very lonely business. When you’re the one running everything yourself, it’s easy to second-guess yourself and question every decision. Brad still beats himself up any time a client leaves his practice (and it does inevitably happen to everyone). This uncertainty can lead to loneliness – you’re the only one who knows what it’s like to be in your shoes.

Solution:

Brad’s best advice is to work with a senior advisor. While it’s true that he didn’t get the mentorship he had hoped for when he worked with a more experienced advisor, he still recommends it to others. Find someone to teach you about the industry – and, just as importantly, someone who knows what it’s like to be new to the business.

You’ll definitely want to hear about Brad’s unique experience in the industry in his own words – as well as his keys to a smooth business transition and why his practice has both MFDA and IIROC advisors. You can find the show here on this page or better yet, subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher so you don’t miss any episodes.

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