It can be tough to build an advisory practice from the ground up.

Read: Tips for newer advisors

In your first few years, you not only need to cater to clients’ needs but must also make time to expand your expertise, says business-building expert Grant Shorten.

Read: 11 ways to give your practice a summer makeover

Shorten, director of Strategic Insights with Renaissance Investments, recently helped CIBC Wood Gundy portfolio manager Janine Guenther gain perspective on how to succeed as a new advisor. And, these tips are also good reminders for seasoned advisors.

Guenther: I’ve been in the financial services industry for more than 25 years, but just became an advisor in late 2013. What are some recommendations for building up my practice?

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Shorten: As a relatively new advisor, you will be developing and running a complex practice. There are a lot of expectations that come with your role, and you’ll be required to wear many different hats. These include:

  • marketer;
  • prospector;
  • asset gatherer;
  • operations manager;
  • administrator;
  • product expert;
  • business planner;
  • educator; and
  • communicator.

Taking on all of these roles can leave you feeling overwhelmed, and you may wonder how you can possibly grow your business. The good news is we can learn useful lessons by studying the asset-gathering tactics of successful advisors.

Top advisors are typically not doing anything particularly creative to grow their books. In fact, what separates successful and average advisors is often their mastery of the fundamentals.

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For instance, remember that your time is precious and that it’s essential to avoid wasting it on low-impact marketing activities. Instead, focus on only two or three high-impact prospecting tactics, and then repeat them systematically.


Most top advisors update their prospecting approaches as trends change. For instance, some may have originally built their businesses through the traditional methods of cold-calling and print advertising, and though large-scale seminars. But, these days, they know the game is won through:

  • word-of-mouth marketing;
  • face-to-face contact; and
  • personal introductions.

Read: An expensive lesson in how not to prospect

So, to succeed, you need to make personal connections and create situations where you can offer second opinions to prospects. You can do this by joining private clubs, professional associations, boards of trade, charities and foundations.


After each networking function, you can advance relationships with prospects in the following ways.

1.  Follow-up should be within 24 to 48 hours. Your first point of contact may be via a brief email, call or handwritten note expressing gratitude.

2. Create a call to action. Try inviting top prospects to upcoming events and meetings, or simply ask additional questions in communications to encourage personal responses. Sometimes, having someone respond once can lead to that person becoming a client.

Also, try building strategic alliances with other professionals, such as accountants, lawyers and private bankers. Meanwhile, plan and execute client events on a regular basis.


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