How Advisors Can Create a Brain Trust

The landscape for advisors throughout this profession is changing rapidly. Look at the last six months alone. The conditions affecting our daily lives have opened doors and presented new challenges that require extra time, effort, and strategic thinking for firms of every shape and size. Factors like fee compression, technology, and regulation are forcing all of us to go back to the drawing board and reinvent the way we do business.

The real bottom-line, burning question then becomes, “How does an advisor stay on top of running a sustainable business while also making a proactive effort to improve themselves as a leader and anticipate the future?”

One way to dissolve this dilemma is to form your own personal think-tank, or brain trust. The best thing you can do when faced with the rapid pace of a changing industry is to surround yourself with colleagues, peers, and mentors who can share valuable insights, provide perspective, and paint a more complete picture of how the landscape is evolving. Remember, it’s not just about bringing new ideas to the table. Find a group of driven individuals who will challenge your thinking and help you avoid making costly mistakes. Sometimes, the best advice I receive is to recognize I shouldn’t pursue a particular project or game plan.

Where to begin? The first step starts with you. Identify the most significant challenges that hinder your ability to achieve your goals. Naturally, this may lead to a list or network of people you are familiar with and trust. Look for experts who can help you tackle the challenges you’ve identified. The group you bring together should consist of individuals who care as much about your success as they do their own and who aren’t competitive or threatening.

Consider three tiers of participants to produce a well-rounded group:

  1. Formal advisors and key team members inside your firm,
  2. Advisor peers from outside your practice who share the need for insight, and
  3. Thought leaders/business owners from different professions. Where do you find them?

Start with the people closest to you and build outward. Mine from your groups, clubs, foundations, coaching programs (like Peak Advisor Alliance), and other affiliated organizations. Then, include internal stakeholders who are intimately involved in running your business. Gathering feedback from inside the company is crucial to gaining buy-in and moving the firm forward. And finally, solicit direct feedback from clients regularly and often. It will keep your business evolving along with the needs of those you serve and prevents unnecessary surprises.

Once you’ve settled on an initial list, determine your method of outreach. Your inner circle will be easiest to approach in person. A simple phone conversation or email may be all you need for some, while those outside your inner circle may require you to get creative. We live in a digital age, so don’t be shy about leveraging social media or finding a common connection who can make an introduction.

Expect those who hear from you to do a little due diligence of their own, too. They want well-qualified, experienced, bright participants as much as you do, so before you spread the word, asking yourself these key questions and doing a little self-reflection can’t hurt.

  • Are you the type of person others gravitate towards for advice?
  • Are you open-minded and willing to share your thoughts and opinions?
  • Do you take constructive feedback well?
  • What unique experience do you bring to the table that may be valuable to others?
  • Can you be held accountable to the things you say you’re going to do?

Do you have the traits it takes? Take Peak Advisor Alliance’s Coachability Quiz.

All are questions that will better prepare you for being an appreciated member of your brain trust. In addition to this mini reflective exercise, look at the impression you already give online. Pushing blog posts and creating other valuable content not only attracts attention but positions you well as a thought leader and makes your area of expertise known.

The true value of a brain trust is in the wisdom acquired; it’s not a place to sell, which can be a comforting thing for advisors. It’s a place to be vulnerable and to recognize the distinction between these people being your colleagues, not your competitors. Respecting it will allow truly meaningful relationships to flourish.

There are numerous factors plotting against your success every day as an advisor, but taking the time to invest in yourself and your firm by surrounding yourself with bright people will ensure you are not only prepared as a leader but proactive as a business.


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