Practice Management

Managing Partner Study Groups Circulate Best Practices

How firm owners grow their business—with competitors’ help.

By Karen Wittwer | December 16, 2016
Page 1 of 5

When most retirement plan advisers want to catch up on industry trends, they go to a conference or webinar; but where do the speakers, leaders in the field, get their information?They may belong to a study group.

More or less formal adviser study groups have been around for years. A current group was inspired by one of the founders’ fathers, who, himself, belonged to a study group in the 1970s and ’80s. The appeal of the best groups is the same now as then: Top-tier managing partners can meet and share ideas, best practices and challenges at a level impossible in other settings.

Sources disagree, though, on how common the groups are, and the phenomenon is hard to track.  “Under the radar” is how two describe the groups. To share valued information requires trust, mutual respect and comfort with other members, so new admissions are few.

Still there is much to be learned from the experience of these groups and best practices they name. Firms might ultimately even want to start their own.

The blueprint for the group begun by Daniel Bryant and Jim O’Shaunessey, owners of Sheraton Road, with several other LPL (then NRP) firms, could be a model for professional study groups in general.

The partners decided to host a two-day retreat, inviting about 20 other “leaders in the institutional investing consultant space, to come and just talk about best practices where we could all learn from each other. These were people we trust and respect immensely,” Bryant says. “There was no judging, no competitive or professional jealousy.”

The fact that all were at different stages of growth and had different ambitions was irrelevant, Bryant says. Even if a firm was smaller, such as Channel Financial, and was “growing out a different animal” than Sheridan Road, each had things they could teach each other. This is still true eight years later.

Over that time, they have explored such topics as how to grow a practice; how to attract and retain great employees; how to leverage technology; customer relationship management (CRM), billing, basic practice management and business oversight; as well as deliverables to a client. What does the client need? What are the tools and things you provide the client? How do you manage a committee from a fiduciary standpoint? These are all crucial points of discussion, Bryant says.

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