How to Choose the Right Financial Advisor

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Because you’re a business owner, your financial advisor should know more than how to trade securities. You need an advisor who can help you plan and work toward your financial goals, manage the risks you encounter along the way and build a legacy for the next generation. You need someone who understands the cycles and pressures of entrepreneurship and has a track record to prove it.

Advisors who understand that their entrepreneur clients require more than standard financial services are often entrepreneurs themselves. Entrepreneurial advisors tend to be based in independent “registered investment advisors,” or RIAs, overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In this article, I’ll share a few specific things entrepreneurs should look for when choosing a financial advisor.

Related: You Have to ‘Date’ Your Financial Advisor to Find the Right One — Here Are 3 Tips to Doing Just That.

Look for passion tempered by training and experience

Because they’ve had experience as RIA owners, these advisors know the stages of business development from startup and early growth through achieving scale and, in some cases, selling the enterprise. Motivated by a fascination with personal finance in the context of business ownership, these advisors either focus on entrepreneurs exclusively or maintain a healthy roster of business-owning clients as a passion project within a broader practice.

Enthusiasm is no substitute for expertise, however. An advisor who can make sense of your business and personal finances has experience managing unpredictable cash flow, crafting investment strategies that complement your business and navigating complex tax scenarios.

An advisor’s experience can’t be overstressed. Has a particular advisor successfully guided business owners through various stages of growth and increasing complexity? Does this advisor have smart things to say about your industry? If “yes,” then it’s likely he has navigated challenges similar to those you encounter and can offer advice that’s practical and feasible.

Remember, emotion clouds judgment. Knowing your business is everything to you, an entrepreneurial advisor will work to keep you calm and focused — especially when the stakes are high.

Find an advisor who gets business and has connections

Some advisors who specialize in business-owning clients enjoy working with entrepreneurs from a variety of business types, while others prefer going deep into specific niches. The generalist can draw on varied scenarios when formulating solutions for your business, while the specialist enjoys the advantages of concentration — namely expertise and credibility — in your line of business.

The choice will depend on your field and your circumstances. Are you looking for an advisor versed in early-stage fundraising for technology startups, exit-planning options for dentists, or the needs of a franchise restaurant owner in fast-growth mode? The answer should color your selection.

An advisor suited to an entrepreneur like you will have strong connections in finance and finance-adjacent spheres outside wealth management. After all, advisors who can call on investment bankers, tax professionals, insurance consultants and legal experts can put you on solid ground when it comes to spotting industry trends, devising valuation strategies, managing risk and keeping everything on the up-and-up when it comes to tax and estate planning. An advisor with working relationships in these spheres can provide full-spectrum financial insights on your enterprise and perhaps open doors to broader business opportunities.

Related: Is Your Financial Advisor Right For You? Here’s A Simple Test To See If It’s Time To Move On.

Use these tips to find an advisor you can trust

A major factor in evaluating financial advisors is their potential as a long-term partner. Entrepreneurs should vet potential advisors by asking for references from other clients in similar business phases or industries. These insights can tell you a lot about the advisor’s capabilities, work style and overall responsiveness.

Taking the time to check an advisor’s professional certifications, compliance history and status as a fiduciary (viewable online at BrokerCheck) are also essential steps for choosing a wealth manager. Fiduciaries, such as RIA-based advisors, are constrained to put their clients’ interests first. Stockbrokers, meanwhile, adhere to a lower standard stipulating only that their advice be broadly “suitable.” If you’re still unsure whether your advisor is a fiduciary, ask for a signed pledge that will act for you in a fiduciary capacity.

An advisor’s transparency about fee calculation and openness about the advisor’s compensation sources are significant trust builders and must-haves for avoiding conflicts of interest. It’s also critical that the relationship be collaborative. From the start, you want an advisor who proposes solutions that mesh with your personal and business goals. This shows the advisor has already taken time to understand your values and risk appetite and that they aim to provide meaningful advice.

Put “works well with Mme” at the top of your list

To assess this alignment, start by sharing your vision for and expectations of the relationship. Probe the advisor’s investment philosophy and her approach to financial planning and portfolio construction in the context of business ownership. Ask how she tailors her advice to meet the specific needs of entrepreneurs, with case studies and anecdotes to illustrate her concepts. Meeting the team that supports the advisor can also provide insights into the depth and breadth of expertise the advisor’s firm offers.

As mentioned, having experiences in common as business owners can support long-term collaboration between you and your advisor. Advisors who run their own businesses possess insight into the challenges and opportunities you face as an entrepreneur, resulting in appropriate advice.

Related: The Truth About Your Financial Advisor

Comprehensive advice for business owners should go beyond business and investment considerations. For most of us, after all, money is just a tool to help us accomplish our personal, family and philanthropic goals. A skilled advisor integrates these personal aspects of financial management with the business to ensure actions taken bolster other important facets of the entrepreneur’s life.

Finding the right financial advisor is a crucial step for entrepreneurs eager to improve their financial health and make the most of their opportunities. A suitable advisor blends industry knowledge, experience, networking capabilities and a deep understanding of entrepreneurship. By choosing an advisor who can act as a partner, entrepreneurs can achieve financial strategies that support equally their business and personal goals.

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