September 18, 2012

Get Your RIA Team in the Right Positions

This past spring I helped coach my daughter's lacrosse team. Early in the season, our head coach assigned each girl a position, which ultimately became their permanent position for much of the year.

One Saturday, I was asked to coach the game solo because our head coach had a scheduling conflict. On game day, I asked my daughter what she thought about the positions that each girl was assigned. Her response went something like this:

"Katie always plays midfield (an offensive "scoring" position) because she says that's where she likes to play. She is really good but hasn't really scored much. Brooke and I have played defense all season. We both play midfield on our other lacrosse team and we both think we're pretty good at it."

We were 1-4 for the season at that point so I figured any change-ups I made might be worth trying. And even taking into consideration my bias for my daughter, she was actually pretty effective at midfield and proved it on other teams she had played on.

So I made the switch—Katie on defense; Brooke and my daughter at midfield. (If you heard the reactions from some of these 11 year-old girls, you’d appreciate that this was not an easy call to make!)

The result? Brooke and my daughter scored four goals between them (neither of them had scored all season).  Katie turned out to be a much better defensive player than she gave herself credit for.

In business, sometimes we have a tendency to slot people into a particular position and keep them there. Need an operations person?  Hire an operations person.  Done.

Over time, two things will probably happen:
  1. Your needs as a firm change.
  2. Your team member may develop different skills or interests.
Just about any firm will eventually undergo changes, like a new business model, different or new clients, a new technology or expanded partner relationships. Some firms may resist change because of the people they have on their team ("We can't automate that.  Mark will get upset").  Others may "hire around" change in a way that leaves excess capacity with other staff members.  And over time, hopefully your team is all growing their skill set or interests in a way that may make them a better fit for new or different activities that would add value to your firm.

In any case, RIA firm leaders should periodically take inventory of the resources they have (people, processes, technology) and their value-added activities to identify any gaps or mismatches between the two. Filling these gaps or fixing mismatches will often lead to:
  • Employee training (or cross-training)
  • New or modified job descriptions and role definitions
  • Team changes (either hiring new staff or letting existing staff go)
Ensuring that you have the right players in the right positions at all times is a critical element to executing your long term plans, ensuring profitability and remaining competitive.  Take an inventory of your team and positions to see if any improvements could be made.

If you are interested in reading about a few thought-provoking RIA case studies, take a look at Finding Freedom to Focus on Strengths: Strategic Hires and Realignment, a white paper that Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services recently wrote.


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