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How to Build a Financial Advisor Team

Take One For the Team

I've got a case of Entrepreneur Syndrome: I'm afraid to give up control and I want to do everything myself. I want to answer the e-mails, buy the office supplies and pay the bills.

But there are only so many hours in the day. And it's often better for my finances if I focus on the things that actually make me money and pay somebody else to do various chores. (When I first paid to have my taxes prepared, I was shocked at how much money I saved.)

Over the past decade, I've come to rely on my "personal finance team," a small group of professionals who advise me on business and personal financial decisions.

My team includes an accountant, an attorney, a financial planner and a personal mentor. I don't just trust these folks to give me business advice; I also count on them to help me navigate my personal financial affairs. Without them, I'd be lost.

Of course, there can be glitches in building a team. "The first time I hired a bookkeeper, it was with the attitude that I just wanted somebody to take care of things for me," says Mark Silver, founder of Portland, Ore.-based consultancy Heart of Business. "But we got to the end of the year and the records were a mess. I had to hire a second bookkeeper to clean it all up. I had to pay for the work twice."

To put together a strong team of advisers, try these tips:

  • Evaluate your needs. Your team might include a banker, stockbroker, accountant or insurance agent. When you know your strengths, you can figure out where you need help with the weaknesses.
     
  • Use referrals. You may be able to find the right pro online. For example, the Nolo lawyer directory can help you find an attorney, and the Financial Planning Association's PlannerSearch tool can lead you to a financial planner. But often the best way to find someone reliable is to ask for recommendations from your friends, family and colleagues.
     
  • Trust your gut. Sabino Arredondo, a CPA and partner at Oregon-based Wilcox Arredondo, recommends hiring people with whom you feel a connection. "Ask yourself how easy it is to talk with the person," Arredondo says. "If it's easy to talk to them about everyday matters--sports, family, the economy--you'll find it's easier to talk about business."
     
  • Find someone who thinks like a business owner. "I try to hire people who are going to look out for my business," Silver says, "not people who are just waiting for me to tell them what to do." Often you won't know what needs to be done next. It's valuable to work with folks who can help you avoid potential pitfalls rather than people who are just there to help you recover from mistakes.
     
  • Don't fear change. If a member of your financial team isn't working out, make a substitution. "There's pressure to find the right person," Silver says. "But it's hard to do that when you don't know what you're looking for. You might have to try a few people before you find the right one."

Finally, remember that nobody cares more about your money than you do. Your advisors may do great work for you, and some may even have a legal obligation to look out for your best interests, but ultimately you are the most important member of your team. 

J.D. Roth is the founder and editor of the personal finance blog getrichslowly.org and the author of Your Money: The Missing Manual.

Like this article? Get this issue right now on iPad, Nook or Kindle Fire.

This article was originally published in the May 2012 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Take One For the Team.

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