Success After Succession: Maximizing the Value of Your Business

Phillip Ackers
CPA, Principal, Lakeshore Performance Limited
January 25, 2023

In our latest episode, we delve into the importance of preparing for the eventual transition of leadership and how it can mean the difference between the continued success or failure of your business long after you step down.

Although the advisory business has been around for many years, the concept of true succession planning has not been. Many advisors treat it like an event as opposed to a plan, but the process must be thoughtful, deliberate, and focused on maximizing value and on the client.

In our latest episode, we delve into the importance of preparing for the eventual transition of leadership and how it can mean the difference between the continued success or failure of your business long after you step down.

Join us as we discuss succession planning with our special guest Phillip Ackers, an expert in the field with over 35 years of experience. Phillip, Founder, and Principal at Lakeshore Performance Limited will share his knowledge on the essential elements of a strong succession plan and the key steps advisors should take to ensure they maximize the value of their business.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How to incorporate a comprehensive succession plan into your practice and why it’s crucial for long-term success
  • The importance of shifting away from a transactional approach
  • The consequences of neglecting succession planning and how to safeguard your business from potential risks
  • And more!

Connect with Phillip Ackers:

About Phillip Ackers:

Phil is the principal and founder of Lakeshore Performance Limited – a company focused on helping firms and advisors address their key issues and challenges.  

With over 35 years in the financial services industry, Phil has worked with firms and advisors in Canada and the U.S., helping them unlock their potential. Phil has worked with advisors focused on developing both their insurance and wealth businesses right through to those who are in the private bank.

Phil is a CPA and has his MBA, which assists in applying a pragmatic and business lens focused on creating efficiencies and profitability.

Podcast Transcript

Welcome to the FAST Podcast, Financial Advisor Strategy Talks with Lara Galloway, SVP of Financial Education at White Glove. Lara provides advisors with an opportunity to hear from some of the best minds in the business, follow along to learn quick tips to help you grow your business. From gaining new leads, to keeping current clients engaged in everything in between.

Now onto the show.

Aric Johnson: Hello, and welcome to the FAST Podcast with your host, Lara Galloway from White Glove.  

Lara, what's going on?

Lara Galloway: Hey, just so excited to be back here. Welcome and Happy New Year to you, Aric.  

Aric Johnson: Happy New Year. I'm so excited to be back with you. I know that we had some good holidays. We've talked about that, and it's been a nice little break, but I'm so glad to be back with you because you always bring on amazing guests, and I know you've got Phillip Ackers today.

What are you guys talking about?  

Lara Galloway: So, we are going to talk about succession planning today, Aric. I'm really excited about it. And let me tell you just a little bit about my guest Phillip Ackers before we jump into that.

So, [00:01:00] Phil is the principal of Lakeshore Performance Unlimited. A company focused on helping firms and advisors address their key issues and challenges.

Now, Phil has over 35 years in the financial services industry, and he has worked with firms and advisors both in Canada and the U.S helping them unlock their potential. Phil has worked with advisors focused on developing both their insurance and wealth businesses, and he's worked right with those also who've gone into the private banks.

Now, Phil is a CPA and has his MBA, which assists him in applying a very pragmatic business lens focused on creating efficiencies and probability. So, Phil, I'm so excited to bring you on to The FAST Podcast. Welcome.  

Phillip Ackers: Thanks very much for allowing me to come on and to be with you here today and Happy New Year to you.

Lara Galloway: Thanks. Now you know, Phil, you and I have a little history. We've known each other for a few years now, and we [00:02:00] first met back when you were working with the folks at SunLife.  

Phillip Ackers: I did, yes. I recall.  

Lara Galloway: And I was excited because you are the kind of leader that is very inspirational. You are a great teacher, but I got to hear you speak to some high performers at SunLife when you were doing some leadership training with those groups.

And you have a very, as you said, pragmatic style of course, but you also have just a very warm and educational style. Like the kind of feel that you want from a mentor. And recently, I was reading LinkedIn and I saw a great post that you made on your Thought for a Thursday.

I love reading those posts. And the one that caught my eye was all about the succession planning. And I thought the way that mentoring style that you use, the way you talk to your leaders, the way you talk to your top producers, I [00:03:00] thought you really unlocked a pretty complicated and challenging topic in a way that I thought our advisors here at the FAST Podcast could really benefit from hearing so I'd love to just kind of jump into that a little bit and if you can share with us so these guys know who they're listening to a little bit about why you were talking about this, a little bit about the Thought for a Thursday and how that plays into some of the training and leadership you're doing today.

Phillip Ackers: Yeah absolutely, Lara. Succession planning is one of those things where the business has been around for a long, long time. Advisors have been in the business 30, 40, and sometimes even 50 years.

On the other side though, some not so long, right? It is one of those businesses where there tends to be lots of attrition upfront, but then it kind [00:04:00] of smooths itself over time. And so, from a succession planning point, one of the things that I realize and certainly myself and others in the business sure realize that it's hard enough sometimes to get advisors to do annual business planning, working on their business, figuring out what am I going to do for the next year or two or three?

What am I going to try to achieve here? But get them to think about something 30 years down the road, 20 years down the road, that tends to be a little bit more of a challenge. So there tended to be this gap in this concept of what happens then, and so when I was doing that piece for LinkedIn, that Thought for a Thursday, it was really focused in on one of the things that literally occurred that week and we were thinking through that week and that was how do you now start to apply this concept or get advisors to start to think [00:05:00] a little bit more longer term.  

And so that post, as I say, was really targeted and focused on that.

Lara Galloway: So, I'd love to just elaborate a little bit. You know, we're talking about succession planning, like this is something everybody should know about, but literally to your point, people aren't talking about it.

So, I know that it's more than just selling your practice or what happens when you don't want to do your practice anymore. Why don't you talk through some of the nuances about what you mean and what you're trying to guide people to think about as they are starting succession planning.

Phillip Ackers: Perfect. One of the things that I think is prevalent here, and as I say from a business planning point of view, it isn't a section in the business plan right now for many, many advisors, right? For all the reasons that I already talked about. And from that perspective, you think about succession planning, you think about how do you get them to think longer term.

One of the things I think you have to do [00:06:00] is get it in your business. Start to incorporate it into your business plan. It may be its own piece on its own. It may be a section in your business plan itself. But the other thing that I think you have to do is to shift the paradigm here a little bit.

So many times, and you've already called it out, where advisors or business owners think about a succession plan as the end of the business. It is the time that I'm going to retire when I want you to kind of think about it differently. It's not an end game strategy here for the business.

It's not about shutting things down. It's about truly building a bigger, better, stronger business that will outlast you, right? So, think about it from that perspective. It's about realizing your lifetime of great work here. How are we going to do that? It's the best [00:07:00] way to really recruit the next generation of advisors into your business.

It's the best way to preserve and protect what you have. What you have built along the way. Because if you think about it from a succession plan, it's all about maximizing value. It's all about really transitioning your business at its peak or certainly the opportunity for its peak at its best value here.

Lara Galloway: I love what you said and one thing you said in the Thought for the Thursday post is that other people that aren't business owners, aren't entrepreneurs, aren't financial advisors responsible for running their own business?

They retire with a pension, right? I work at a corporate job at White Glove. I have a retirement plan. [00:08:00] I have meetings at least every year with our financial advisors talking about what our decisions are with our investments, do we want to make any changes?

What sort of growth are we looking at over time? I am literally doing some of that planning. And one thing you pointed out in your post was that a lot of times, we need to think about that. Our advisors need to think about that. That it's your self-funded retirement.

It's your self-funded pension plan. And I kind of thought that really resonated because sometimes I don't know about you, Phil, do you find that financial advisors love business planning? Is that something they enjoy, they sign up for with glee every year?

Phillip Ackers: Lara, sorry I can't help but smile on that one.

It is hard to get them to do a business plan, something even on the back of a napkin. But to your point, you've got a pension plan. I've got pension plans [00:09:00] as well. There's something in there and how ironic is it that an advisor will sit down every day with every one of their clients and figure out what their retirement plan is going to be.  

What are their sources of income? How much can they afford every year till the day they pass away, or you know, whatever. And so they do that every day. But if you look at it and say, advisor, are you doing that for yourself?

No. You're probably not. It isn't part of the business plan right now. It has to be no different than every financial plan, every retirement plan you've done for your clients, right? That's what you do. You have got to do it for yourself as well. And the unfortunate part about this ends up being that when an advisor finally gets around to it, when they finally have that mindset, the unfortunate part of the equation is [00:10:00] the business has probably had its peak already and it's now on the decline.  

So, any opportunity to fund that said retirement plan that you and I are talking about right now isn't necessarily at its maximum value, and that's really what it needs to be.  

Lara Galloway: So, Phil, is what you're recommending today would be something like an advisor reaching a point where they just don't want to work anymore and saying, “I'm done”, and just transferring off their clients to somebody and taking the money that they have and just quitting.

Is that a fair statement?  

Phillip Ackers: It's more than a fair statement. I call it almost a transactional approach. Where it is a point in time, you're looking at it and saying, you know what, this is it. Enough is enough. I'm done.

And the reality is when you have that mindset, it's not on a Monday morning you suddenly come to [00:11:00] that conclusion. This is probably something that has been building up for a long period of time. There are things that have happened in the business. Look at Covid, right? I mean, just the impact of Covid that forced some advisors to look at this business and say, you know what? I'm good.

It wasn't on that Monday morning that they finally had that realization. It happened long before that. So that transactional approach, that decision to sell my business, it is something that you're not doing yourself any favor by doing that. Right?

And, and it is one where it might be Covid, it might be here in Canada, new regulations for CRM two and disclosure or whatever it may be. It may be what we've just gone through, from a market's perspective and [012:00] having to have that conversation with another client.

And it gets to a point where you say, you know what? I'm good. You're not maximizing that value. Right? And conversely, if you do have a succession plan, and you do include this in your business plan, what are some things that you're planning for your succession, like on a regular basis, on an annual basis at least, what are some actions that an advisor might take differently that you have seen?

So, if you're saying to somebody instead of just putting it off until, oh, I'm going to retire and here's how I'm going to transact this, you know, carry out this transaction and be done with it. What would they be doing differently? So, we're saying include it in your business planning.  

Lara Galloway: Can you just kind of talk through us a little bit and show how that mindset might cause a financial advisor to do things differently today?

Phillip Ackers: This is going to sound eerily familiar. Because if you think about the [00:13:00] purpose of a business plan, it's about what you want to accomplish over the next year, three years, five years? What do you want your growth to look like? What do you want your team to look like?

All of those things are true elements of not just a business plan, but if you think about a true succession plan, it's everything that you're doing in a business planning format. It's about maximizing your value. It's about refining your business, refining your practice. It's about looking at what you want your ideal client makeup to look like.

It's all those things. So, as I said before, step one is shifting that mindset. Looking at this as it's truly an exercise in defining and determining what your growth profile needs to be, what you want it to look like. The second thing that I would say here, Lara, is just like you do, just like advisors do with their clients, [00:14:00] one of the things advisors do from a retirement perspective is they want their clients to envision what retirement will look like.

What did your clients want to achieve by retiring at age 62? They need to have that crystallized in their mind that says, if I'm looking to exit the business at age 62 or 65 or 70, or whatever the case may be, what is the reason for doing so.

So, it ends up being a case where just like a business plan, understanding what your vision is, post succession, what your mission is. Post succession here crystallizing what you want your life to look like, post succession or post-retirement. And then you get into more logistical type things. And here again, are key elements of any good business plan.

It's about understanding your key metrics, the things that you need to achieve, the ones that [00:15:00] need focus here looking at compliance issue. Right. Staffing, HR, is this a team that has the ability here to grow and continue with the business? A SWOT analysis. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats.

Keep in mind that the strengths and the opportunities are the things that tend to increase the value. If you're able to capitalize on those, those will increase the value of your practice. The opportunities or the weaknesses and threats are the things that will actually take away value if you're not addressing them appropriately.

So, if you look at all those key elements of not just a business plan, but you have those same elements in mind from a succession planning point of view. Suddenly, your succession plan starts to take on a life of its own. The same things you are driving towards from a pure business planning perspective are the same things that are going to benefit you and benefit [00:16:00] the value of your succession plan as you continue.

And of course, the other things are operational in perspective. Who is that successor going to be and what are the things that are going to appeal to them? So many of those things are already in business plans today. You've just got to change your mindset.

You got to change how you approach those. And as I said before, this is not to end your business five years from now, but how you ensure that your business is going to continue for the next 10, 15, 20 years? That legacy that you have worked so many years to build and to be able to enjoy from your side.

Lara Galloway: Well, certainly. Also as you're saying, this business that you've built, the relationships that you've built, how are you going to ensure that these people that you've been taking care [00:17:00] of for all of these years, remain taken care of? These families that you've helped build and grow and you've been through so many things with over these years.

I love that and I really think advisors would be wise to take away from this is, A succession plan is part of your business plan. It is a business plan. It's not something you think about later. It's absolutely a part of your business plan. I think just like that mindset, like, oh, of course I'm succession planning.

It's a part of my business plan. It becomes that easy, right? It is literally that easy or it should be that easy.  

Phillip Ackers: I mean you bring up a great point here, Lara. That is when you look at the relationships that you've had with your clients, now I'll come back to the point where most advisors are doing some form of retirement planning or financial planning with their clients.

They are planning for them out to the age of 95. 30 years, 40 years, [00:18:00] 45 years, 50 years. Well, you start to get a little gray hair like I have here and clients start to realize, maybe they don't call it out right away, but there always is going to be that question that if I need assistance, if I need advice for the next 20, 30, 40 years of my life, Phil. If it's not going to be you, Lara. If it's not going to be you, then who's it going to be? Right?  

That's a key element. Those great relationships that you have enjoyed and of course your clients have enjoyed. what's that going to look like 10 years from now, 15 years from now.

Lara Galloway: Another thing you put in your post that I thought was so smart is you don't want to race your clients to retirement, right? No. I've got gray hair. You've got gray hair, right? Not that you do. But your client does, you know?

Absolutely. [00:19:00] The planning required, the assistance, the advice, the direction, the shoulder to be able to lean on is a shoulder that needs to be there for 30, 40 years.

And that’s the reason why they joined your firm in the first place. That's a reason why they are looking for advice. It's a reason why they're not doing it on their own, and because they have defined and determined that they need advice. So, you've already got them sold.

It's just a case of how are you now going to deliver, not just over the next 10 years, over the next 15 years, but how are you going to help them and ensure that they are being helped for the remainder of their days?  

So important. I want to back up a minute, Phil, because before I just asked you that last question, you were talking a bit [00:20:00] and you mentioned the word growth like five or six times.

And I just want to call it out because I think when we're talking about succession planning, knowing the mindset of a lot of advisors, you know what they are thinking, oh, that's what I do when I get close to retirement. Right. Succession is a retirement plan.  

I'm not in succession planning, but they should be because we just said it should be part of your business plan. So whatever stage you're in, you need to be planning for succession. But then to continue with this idea of growth, the whole point, I think once someone is ready to start thinking about succession planning, don't they typically shift their mindset to more of like, I don't need any new clients. I'm just going to maintain Phil. I think things are great right now. I don't really need to continue growing.

And I feel like that's something you said in your post that you feel is critical is not taking your foot off the [00:21:00] gas.  

It's still growth. So, can we just talk about that a little bit? Because I think that's important.  

Phillip Ackers: Yeah, for sure. It is something where that growth mindset that we've talked about here and you just referenced as well. But some of the best advisors I've ever worked with are the ones that, and it doesn't matter if they're 30 years in the business, 40 years in the business, whatever the case may be, some of the best advisors never stop prospecting.

They're always looking to grow because one of the things that they have realized year over year, they figured out a long time ago this is a business of attrition here, right? We saw the market at 10%, 15%, 20% last year.

Clients take their money. Clients pass away. It's their beneficiaries [00:22:00] of estates. People put down mortgages, whatever the case may be. So, unless you are continuing with that growth mindset, by definition, you are really running a business in decline.

That's it. Like there's nothing magical about it at all. And so, if you lose that growth mindset, if you look at it and say, you know what, five years from now, whatever the case may be, I'll look to sell my business. At that point in time, I will pretty much guarantee you that you're not saying five years from now, I'm going to retire, but I'm going to look to grow by 10%, 20% this year, next year, and next or the year after that.

At such point in time where you have determined, yes, I'm going to retire over the next two years, three years, treating it like that transaction, that mindset of retirement, that mindset of maintaining here has probably already started to [00:23:00] kick in. And as I said before, it is a business potentially of attrition unless you have that growth mindset.

Therefore, your expectation of simply maintaining is probably one where you are going to lose several clients each year. Maybe not by your choice, but potentially by theirs. And that may be nothing other than again, looking at you and going hmm. Not so sure that you're going to be around here for 10 years, 15 years.

Therefore, it's something where I might need to start looking somewhere else. Maybe you're not doing the service program anymore. Maybe like all those things that go along with not having a growth mindset certainly start to kick in for sure. Well just to tie it back to what we were saying it, an earlier point about the pension for your retirement.

Lara Galloway: So, if a FA says, oh, I'm going to sell the business in five years, and [00:24:00] then at that point starts taking the foot off the gas. What happens to that pension? What happens to the valuation of that business? Can you talk through a little bit about that? Just again, if you're not growing, you're what?

Phillip Ackers: If you're not growing, you are declining, the value of your business is declining. When you look at what we've talked about already here, Lara, it's got to be part of your business plan. You must have that growth mindset. It is something that needs to happen.

At least 10 years before you eventually retire, whether that's 65 or 62 or whatever the case may be, it's something that must happen at that point in time. And so, in the absence of that, you focus much more on that transactional type of approach. It is very much if you've got a defined [00:25:00] contribution plan, or if you've had one.

I've got one, I've got a couple of them. It's all based on what is the value of it at some point in time. And if you lose that growth mindset, if you are in a business in decline here, the value of that potential liquidation event here, when you convert that defined contribution plan into something else, an annuity or whatever the case may be.

The unfortunate reality is that the value that you're going to convert at that point in time is going to be less than probably what it was two years earlier, three years earlier. And unfortunately, by then, every advisor who advises their clients on their three options that they have when it comes time to do some pension planning here.

It's all based on if you [00:26:00] want to have maximized the value to be able to convert it at its highest potential price. I think it's powerful to think about that. This is something an advisor is in control of. This is something you can plan, take advantage of, get the maximum of.

If you think about it strategically as the business plan, as you've been saying today and make sure that you keep that growth mindset and that you keep prospecting, you keep bringing in new leads, you keep asking for those referrals, and you keep working on a service program that makes people want to stay with you.

The person passes on, and the family doesn't have a relationship with you and all that kind of stuff. So, I think you've made a great case for succession planning and about thinking about it as just another part of your business plan, and you are doing this with your clients.

Are you doing [00:27:00] it for yourself? Why wouldn't you?  

Lara Galloway: Right. I would love it if you don't mind, I always like to ask one question before we go. I would like to ask you what your definition of success is. I'm thinking of this long career you've had, Phil, and of all the benefits that you've had being a coach and a mentor and a consultant to so many advisors that have come under you over the years.

What would you suggest to them? What is a model for you for this success that you wish for?  

Phillip Ackers: Success, and I'm going to put this in from a succession planning point of view, if I can. I would say success is defined by a couple of different things. Number one is that you have maximized the value of your business at the point in time of succession.

The second thing is that you have minimized the [00:28:00] succession for both your clients and for your staff as well. If you can do those two things, you have defined success as it relates to succession planning. Because remember, we've talked about clients, we've talked about the advisor, we didn't talk about the staff.

If you've lost that growth mindset, if they're starting to see declining AUM or whatever the case may be, they themselves start to question, what's my future going to look like? What are the opportunities that are going to be there for me? Right? So don't forget about the staff as well and the potential impact on maximizing the value and reduce the impact on the staff and on the clients.

Lara Galloway: That's awesome. That's helpful, Phil. How can people reach out to you and learn a little bit more if [00:29:00] they have been inspired by this and want some extra help?  

Phillip Ackers: LinkedIn is probably the best way at this point in time for it.

You mentioned the thought for Thursday and so on. It is something that I've been doing. Literally every Thursday, like literally every Thursday for the last 12 years now. And it's really been driven in a sense where it comes from a place where every week you see something new, you see something different.  

You, you are reminded of something, somewhere along the way. So, LinkedIn is one of the key areas here that I rely and depend on a fair bit. Anyway, and of course email. It's Philip.Ackers@performance.com.  

Lara Galloway: We’ll make sure that we get those links on our [00:30:00] website for you guys. If you're listening in, you'll find it on our podcast page. You'll get links for those. But it has been an absolute pleasure having you, Phil. Thank you so much for taking the time today.  

Phillip Ackers: Oh, you're very welcome, Lara. Much appreciated as well.

It's one of the key mantras that I always kind of live by here, and I think from an advisor point of view, this is where succession planning comes into play. It’s as simple as building it or incorporating it into the business plan. And I think that's true.

The reality is simplicity drives change. And so, you think about that perspective here. You think about how easy it could be to simply incorporate business or succession planning into your business plan. It is as easy as that. Remember that as an advisor, nobody's going to pay you a dime to take something that is simple and make it complicated. But they [00:31:00] will pay you all day long to take something that's complicated and make it simple.

Lara Galloway: I love it. Keep it simple, folks. Keep it simple. Thank you so much, Phil.  

Phillip Ackers: Thanks, Lara. Much appreciated.

Aric Johnson: Phil and Lara, this was fantastic. Thank you so much Phil for all the information. I do have a question if you don't mind.

So, here's the thing. Lara has a huge audience for this podcast. I know some of the folks listening right now are advisors that are working with great mentors, great senior advisors. There are junior advisors listening to this. What is the best way for a junior advisor or an advisor that's working under a senior advisor to approach this subject or to help maybe guide that senior advisor into understanding how important a successful succession plan is for the entire business?

Because I know a lot of people are in that position.

Phillip Ackers: You know, they're going to be concerned about their job in the next five [00:32:00] years, and they want to broach the subject, but they don't want to say, hey, I know you're going to die soon, so what are you going to do?

What's a better way than that? Couldn't help noticing the gray on the temples there for sure. I am an absolute advocate from an advisor’s perspective in bringing your team in and having them participate in business planning sessions, number one.

Not to say that you have to, all the nitty gritty of the business and all of the financials and so on you don’t necessarily want to get into, but as it relates to the future of the business, if I'm a junior advisor, if I'm a staff member, if I'm a senior advisor, a mentor, one of the things that I would certainly support is the idea of engaging your staff, engaging junior advisors in what the expectation is for the next year, for [00:33:00] the next three years for the next five years.  

And if that's not happening, if the question of succession is not part of that, to be honest with you, I think it is a fair question to say hey Aric, what do you expect for the next 10 years? What's the outlook? I would love to be able to get some insight into that.

Or at the very least, what do you anticipate or what do you expect for the next 10 years of the business? We haven't really talked about that in the past. I would love to better understand what that looks like, and at the same point in time, I would welcome the opportunity even to help and contribute to that as well.

So, Aric, I would ask the question.

Aric Johnson: Great approach. Well, Phil, again, thank you so much for the great information. Great tips and hints. That's what this podcast is all about, right? Lara, you've built a platform here that is phenomenal, that the folks need to be listening to. So, again, I know we have a ton of listeners.

[00:34:00] If folks want to reach out to you, Lara, and White Glove, how do they do that?  

Lara Galloway: Info@whiteglove.com.

Aric Johnson: That kept it simple, just like Phil said. I love it. All right, thank you both again and of course our last thank you always goes to our listening audience. Thank you so much for tuning in and listening to the FAST podcast with Lara Galloway.

If you have not subscribed to the podcast yet, please click the subscribe now button below this way. When Lara comes out with a new podcast, it'll show up directly on your listening device, and we humbly ask you to share this podcast, leave a review as this does help others find them.

Again, thank you so much for listening today. For everyone at White Glove, this is Aric Johnson reminding you to live your best day every. And keep it simple. We'll see you next time. Thank you for listening to the FAST Podcast, Financial Advisor Strategy Talks with Lara Galloway, your go-to source designed to help you grow your business.

Have questions about the topics covered during the show? Visit our website at www.whiteglove.com or email [00:35:00] us at info@whiteglove.com. Don't forget to click the follow button to be notified when new episodes become live. The information covered and posted represents the views and opinions of the guests and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of White Glove.

The content has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional investing advice. Always seek the advice of your financial advisor or other qualified financial services provider with any questions you may have regarding your investment planning.

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