How to Pinch Hit for Senior Advisors on Vacation

It’s finally spring break, which typically means two things: traffic is surprisingly lighter on the morning commute (because school is closed) and your coworkers may be taking some time off.

In my case, both apply, but the really exciting part is one of those co-workers is my boss, John Anderson, and he not only went away, but went out of the country.

I’ve worked with John for close to 10 years now, so with the exception of any loose ends related to a project or a client he’d like me to follow up on, I pretty much know my marching orders, no matter where he is. And while I take pride in knowing that he trusts me and the rest of his team to keep the proverbial ship afloat, I’m well aware that time and trust are big factors in that relationship. But what if you haven’t established that bond quite yet?

What you don’t know can hurt you (or your clients)

For the younger/new advisor who just started working with a senior advisor, one of the biggest concerns you may have is how to handle a client-related issue when your boss is away. From something as simple as explaining the fee structure of an account, to something as complex as executing a ROTH IRA conversion, you need to be able to handle what comes your way.  Providing the *wrong* answer to a client could result in a poor client experience (or worse) that could leave the client wondering, “What am I paying you for?” But more often than not, a mistake (or misstep) can end up being a learning experience that you and your overall business learn from.

In the ThinkAdvisor article, 10 Commandments for Newbie Agents and Advisors, recommendation #4 is “Thou shalt follow thy firm’s strategy,” which is largely related to the positioning of certain products within the company, but could also tie directly back to the training process of the company.

If a client sends you a question that he/she would normally ask the senior advisor, and you don’t know the answer to it, is there a formal way you’ve been taught to provide an educated response, while also saying “I don’t know?”

In many cases, clients simply want acknowledgement that their question will be addressed, even if a definitive answer is not given right away. In the eyes of your boss who’s away, I’d imagine you could gain a significant amount of credibility by providing a list of items that you’d like to discuss with your boss in more detail before getting back to the client, as opposed to giving an incorrect (or poorly thought-out) answer.

When the boss is away, does the staff play?

I’ve addressed how the younger advisor might handle the senior advisor being away. Let’s look at this through the senior advisors’ eyes. Say you have 3 or 4 younger advisors under your direction, and you’re planning a 2-week vacation to Costa Rica with your family. Have you trained everyone up to a point where you’re comfortable allowing them to keep things going? Do you trust the maturity level of those working for you that the work culture you may have in place (working from home, flex schedules, the ability to stream – or not – sporting events in the conference room) isn’t taken advantage of, just because you’re not there?

I asked one advisor if he worried about his staff when he’s away. He said with a smile, “Not at all. We’ve got workflows that address the day-to-day activities and we make sure that our company employees are positioned as one unit to the investor. I’m more concerned about what I’m missing (in terms of fun in the office) than what might be going wrong.”

If you create the right culture, your business (and your employees) won’t miss a beat if you’re gone for 2 days or 2 weeks.

Know what’s expected

One of the cool things about a transparent working environment is that everyone should have a clear understanding of what’s expected of them. When your boss will be out of the office for an extended amount of time, it’s natural to want to have as many items covered as possible. Like the Philadelphia 76ers, you have to continue to “Trust the Process” your firm has in place, and take advantage of the learning experiences along the way.

Investing involves risk including the possible loss of principal.

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