The people are the reason
Commonwealth wasn't Ryan's first choice. As he was searching for a new firm partner in 2009, wholesalers suggested Ryan look in a new direction. "They said, 'You should really think about Commonwealth. We know how you guys work, and you're the same as those people. Every one of the people we've encountered at Commonwealth is just like you guys and thinks the way you do, and we think you'd find something good there.' So I picked up the phone and called, and we totally hit it off."
In a time when the financial services industry is becoming commoditized, here's how people—not products—continue to earn Ryan's trust.Q
How does Commonwealth affect your happiness at work?
The people are the reason we signed on with Commonwealth initially. You're working with people who thoroughly enjoy what they do, who are specialists in their field, and who you enjoy as people as much as you do for their knowledge and what they can deliver for you. It's this thing that you can't really quantify when you're shopping for a broker/dealer, to have people and personality and fit. I feel like the thing that comes from the advisor being happy—I think I speak as much for my partners as I do for myself—is just the freedom to think bigger.
If you're stuck in a rut, or you're frustrated about dealing with some issue, or you can't sell because you don't have the support you need, you're not able to get to a place that allows you to grow. So, if you're happy because you have this awesome toolbox, it makes you a lot more confident as you're delivering advice. I think that's wrapped into the happiness of what you do and how you deliver it.Q
How has your firm used Commonwealth's Advanced Planning team?
Being able to send somebody a tax return or a set of estate documents and get a review back or to have complex options on restricted stocks set up for an executive at a publicly traded company . . . It takes 15 minutes to send an email that describes everything, and then somebody with a depth of experience that you don't have gives you five pages of detail plus a spreadsheet to explain it all. That's money, right? You'd pay a thousand bucks for an attorney to just look at the documents for estate planning, and Commonwealth does that for us. It's included.
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How is compliance support different at Commonwealth?
From a compliance standpoint, I don't want to have to shop for a better answer. The rules are what they are, and Commonwealth will try to help you adhere to them and work within them or within the framework of them. Commonwealth's policies are not designed to stifle what you're doing but to make it less likely that you're going to fail. The support we get from Compliance is broad and deep. If they don't know an answer, they'll either find that person who does or they will do the research. They are also willing to listen to feedback on why that is or isn't the appropriate answer from our standpoint.Q
How did participating in Practice Management's Power in Practice program change the way you run your business?
It was probably the most important thing I've done as an advisor, as a business owner, and as a professional and a leader. Power in Practice was just an incredible tool. I did it in 2011, eight years after I became a partner, so I already understood a fairly decent amount about what we were doing from a business standpoint, but I had never been a business owner before that, so I didn't know what I didn't know.
You have people who have vast experience talking to us and wrapping all of that into a package and then delivering it to us. They talk about how to set your books up in a way that makes your business easily valuable and salable, how to design and build processes in your firm so that you're not just a bunch of people under one roof. It's lots of little things. They separated you into groups. Are you a solo or are you a multiadvisor practice? Are you a marketer or are you not a marketer? You're going to have different conversations. So, you were able to talk to and create relationships with people who are like you and who probably are doing something a little bit better than you in every area. I still talk about it like it's the greatest thing, and it just changed my life as an advisor.