What to Do Before Hiring in Your Planning Practice

Journal of Financial Planning: October 2021


Charesse Spiller is the founder of Level Best, which empowers financial planners and entrepreneurs by teaching them how to level up their operations.


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Many financial planners and business owners assume that when they hit capacity in their firm, they need to start hiring. Whether you’re looking to hire an administrative assistant, chief operating officer, or even an associate planner, one thing is for certain—hiring is expensive.

New hires cost your firm a significant amount of money in salary and benefits. They also “cost” your firm time, energy, and resources to find candidates, train them, and ensure that they’ll be a valuable fit on your team. Once you hire, you also run the risk of having your new employee leave shortly after hiring. Worse yet, they might not be a fit for your practice—leaving you with the unpleasant task of letting them go.

The truth is that hiring can be a pain. Although it’s sometimes necessary, business owners need a better solution to scale easily before they look to hire. The good news is that a solution does exist: leveraging your existing processes and technology to free up your time and create a scalable practice.

Why Hiring Shouldn’t Be Your First Solution

Hiring is expensive, and it can be risky. This is especially true for small businesses or solo RIAs who don’t have a lot of time or a huge hiring budget. However, the downsides of hiring go beyond just the cost.

Hiring can actually be a band-aid solution for inefficiencies in your practice. The more you hire to get work off of your plate before you look at streamlining your operation, the more likely you are to:

  • Create duplicate work
  • Miss “holes” in your process
  • Miscommunicate processes or expectations

This could potentially lead to an inefficient operation and a poor client experience—neither of which are good things!

Instead of immediately looking to hire, look at the resources you currently have available. Typically, your two most prevalent resources are your tech stack and your time. Finding ways to leverage these two things can help you streamline and scale before hiring.

What Processes Can Help You Scale?

There are several processes you can focus on to help you scale easily.

Standard Deliverables. When you create standard deliverables to use throughout your client experience, you eliminate the need for:

  • Custom proposals
  • Recreating meeting materials
  • One-time client deliverables

Additionally, you’re able to create a consistent client experience, which can lead to increased referrals.

Email Templates. Most firms rely heavily on email to communicate with clients. Help yourself by developing email templates to support you. Create template responses to answer common client and prospect questions, or to follow up with prospective clients after a meeting. Remember: templates are critical because copy and paste only goes so far. You don’t want to forget to remove a client’s first name before sending it to a new prospect!

Checklists or Workflows. Having onboarding checklists or seamless workflows available can help you follow a consistent process. This will save you time and energy in the long run, while also ensuring you don’t miss a step.

Technology. Go through a technology audit at least annually. This can help you understand what tech you have in your stack, what features are available, and how you can leverage your tech to better serve your firm. You may find that your existing tech stack has released new features and automation, making a new hire unnecessary—and saving you money.

What Should You Do When Processes Aren’t Enough?

When you’ve ironed out your processes, created automation in your business, and streamlined your tech stack, you may still hit a capacity ceiling. This is when you can finally look to hire with confidence. However, it’s important to be honest with yourself about what new hire you actually need.

For example, you likely don’t need someone full time if this is your first hire. Instead, look for an automation specialist to further help you create efficiency in your business. Alternatively, you could look to hire a virtual assistant or a paraplanner to take some of the most time-intensive tasks off your plate so that you can focus on scaling.

In 2018, an adviser hired our team to help them streamline their processes, develop workflows, and complete a tech audit. We completed this project in roughly three months. The original goal was to streamline their operation before bringing a virtual assistant on in the fall of that same year. However, after working with us to automate and streamline their operation, the adviser realized they didn’t need to pay a part-time salary each month because the automation took the virtual assistant’s place. They were able to save themselves time and profit just by automating before hiring

Practice Management