Making the Transition to Manager: What Would Arlene Say?

12 min read
October 25, 2018

Many XY Planning Network members are solopreneurs. They’ve set out on their own to start a financial planning practice for a variety of reasons. Maybe they wanted flexibility in their work schedule, or maybe they’re interested in pursuing a practice that serves a client base they’re passionate about. Whatever the reason behind making the switch to entrepreneurship, one thing seems to be a common thread in a lot of planner’s stories:

They started their own practice because they wanted to work with clients in a specific way. They wanted their values and their standard to be their practice’s standard.

This is incredibly admirable!

As your business grows and scales, you might find going it alone isn’t feasible anymore. Whether you’re looking to hire another financial planner, or you want to work with a back-office staff member full-time to provide exceptional service to your clients, growing your team presents a unique challenge for the solo-practitioner: How do you keep running the business of your dreams while making room for a team to grow and bring their own unique ideas to the table?

In other words, how do you make the transition from solo practitioner to manager?

Know When to Hire

Many advisors think it’s time to hire a full-time employee the second they get busy, and that’s not necessarily true. Knowing when to hire is about more than hitting capacity and finding someone to outsource work to. A full-time hire is a huge undertaking, and figuring out whether you have the revenue to support a new employee instead of a contractor should be the first step you take.

Once you determine whether or not your revenue can support someone full or part-time, you’ll need to decide what position you’re hiring for. Asking yourself a few questions can help get the ball rolling:

  1. Where is the majority of my time being spent right now?
  2. Is that the best use of my time?
  3. What tasks have to be completed by me?
  4. Am I comfortable giving up client-facing tasks?
  5. What tasks aren’t being completed that I need to do?
  6. What type of role, or skillset, will positively impact clients?

It’s possible that the role you’re looking for is actually a virtual contractor. You may need a marketing manager, a bookkeeper or accountant, a virtual assistant, a graphic designer, a social media specialist, and/or a coach. You might even find that outsourcing one task, like fielding client and prospect calls through a call service, is enough to take a huge weight off your shoulders. But if you end up deciding the answers to these questions clearly indicate the need for someone full-time, you should make sure you’re hiring for the right role! Evaluating what type of role can serve both you as a business owner, your clients, and your practice best is key.

Start With the Job Description

Hiring effectively as a soon-to-be-manager starts with your job description. Before you start writing, remember this is a description for your ideal candidate. Don’t get caught up in industry stereotypes or traditional job role titles. For example, you might need an admin or assistant who performs traditional admin tasks and has the capability to handle light marketing. Or you might be looking for an associate planner who’s also willing to coordinate client events and generate business. Pigeonholing yourself to one “traditional” job description won’t free you up to find the ideal candidate.

If you’re struggling to write a job description, take a step back and ask your colleagues. Reach out to people who recently have hired successfully, or even who have had an unsuccessful time hiring to learn from their experience. There are no “rules” against utilizing someone else’s job description if it works for you! Alternatively, you can use what’s worked for other people and mold it to what you need.

Make sure you’re asking the opinion of a diverse sample of your network. It’s easy to fall into the trap of writing a job description that you would want to read, which has the potential to scare away candidates who come from a different background, different career path, or experience level. This same idea holds true after you write the job description—get some feedback from colleagues you trust!

Whoever you end up hiring, keep in mind they’re an equally important part of your team. It’s really easy to divide up work, then to continue to view each role as having its own individual place. When you hire, you should work to view every employee as being part of the big, exciting team you’re building! At XYPN one of our core values is Win Together-Lose Together. That means the whole team works to bring success to the company, and we all are in it together when times get tough. The same is true for your team. Every component is important to the success of the whole firm.

Hiring and Onboarding

Ready to get rolling? Let’s jump into the hiring process! You’ve got a job description, you’re ready to bring on a full or part-time team member, and you’re incredibly excited. I don’t blame you! This is a huge step for you and your business. Before you start posting your job description out, you should take the time to get clear on what you’re looking for in a candidate. This isn’t to say that you need to develop exactly what their role will be (that was already kind of handled in your job description).

Right now you’re focusing on who you want to work with, and how you want their position to grow with you and your practice. Building out a career path for your new hire before they’re in your organization can be challenging. You don’t know what their strengths or skillset are going to be. But sometimes it can be helpful to draw out a map for your business to know where you want to grow, where you want your new hire’s career to grow, and how you want your own role as the business owner to evolve over time. Having this kind of a game plan going into the onboarding process can provide you with clarity, and help guide the expectations you set for your soon-to-be employee.

Mapping these things out is also helpful for facilitating conversations with your candidates. Letting candidates know what your vision for their role is can help them determine whether or not they’re excited to move forward with your firm. This is a big commitment for them too. Deciding what type of tasks they have now and what level of responsibility you want them to take on in the future can be hard, but it can make for some amazing conversations with candidates about their values and their hopes for their career.

Where to Post

When you’re ready to post your job description, I can’t recommend looking at resources within your network highly enough. A few of my favorites are New Planner Recruiting, FPA’s job board, and NAPFA’s job board. You can also:

  • Reach out to your network
  • Ask your college professors if they have any financial planning students who are looking for jobs soon
  • Post your job in different Facebook groups if allowed by their terms (like FPA Activate or XY Planning Network’s VIP Group)


Once you’ve hired your new employee, it’s time to start onboarding. This is probably the most intimidating part of the process, and a lot of advisors skip it altogether, which is a huge mistake.

As a new manager, it’s your job to build out an onboarding plan that makes sense for your business while still setting reasonable expectations for your new employee. It can be beneficial to have both you and your new employee go through the Strengthfinders test to evaluate the best way to communicate onboarding expectations, tasks, and other feedback with one another during this process.

As a new manager, you have a few priorities to keep in mind while onboarding your new employee. First, you want to make sure you’re facilitating buy-in from them. Hypothetically, they should already be pretty excited to have accepted the job, but it’s still worthwhile to encourage relationship-building early on in their career with your firm. Next, you should be focusing on what your onboarding plan looks like.

Typically, I recommend creating something that has a clean timeline associated with it, whether it’s 6-months or 90 days. Depending on the type of role you’ve hired for, you can adjust the timeline to be longer or shorter based on what you need. The plan should add tasks slowly over time rather than throwing both of you into a new situation without any preparation.

Finally, you need to be prioritizing your company culture as your team grows. More specifically, it’s worthwhile to take extra steps to protect your company culture. Even if it’s just been you up until now, you still have a distinct “culture” about the way you do things as a business owner.

Figuring out how to weave company culture throughout your onboarding process is a good way to start communicating that culture to your new employee. You can do this in a handful of ways:

  1. Writing a company mission statement and including it in your onboarding materials.
  2. Setting up processes and systems that reflect your company culture.
  3. Setting KPIs with your new hire that track how they perform their role’s tasks in a way that reflects your values. 

Remember, any onboarding systems you set up should be there to alleviate pressure for everyone. Don’t create extra systems or onboarding “to-dos” that add stress to your daily life.

Instead, your onboarding plan should work to help divide tasks appropriately, set clear standards, and have enough flexibility to adjust the plan as needed if you find something just isn’t working.

Learn to Balance Your Managerial Duties

Becoming a manager isn’t just about fostering the success of your business and your new hire, it’s also about learning to balance your new duties as a manager with your old duties as a business owner and financial planner.

The first thing I recommend for any new manager is to start time blocking your schedule. Set specific days for specific tasks. A few things to start adding to your calendar are:

  • Weekly team meetings or daily “huddles” to keep the team on the same page.
  • Walk-and-talk meetings are excellent for big thinking or addressing issues that might be contentious.
  • Client work
  • Client meetings
  • Marketing and working “on” the business
  • “Management” time (approving your employee’s work, making sure they have the training/guidance they need)

Every business is different, so every business owner’s calendar will look different. It can also be helpful to build an organization chart that maps out all of the tasks that take place in your business. Assign those tasks to either you, your new hire or other contractors or freelancers you work with to make sure everything’s getting done, then put your tasks on your calendar.

Finally, don’t forget to take time for self-care. As a solopreneur, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. You might think that having employees on board will help free up your time for more self-care, but more often than not the opposite happens. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the day-to-day business tasks you’ve got on your plate, and now you’re adding a whole new slew of managerial tasks to your to-do list. When you block off time on your calendar, make sure you’re adding in time to take a break, breathe, and care for yourself!

Set Standards

This is a big one. Setting standards is critical to make sure your new hire and any future hires can truly thrive in their new role. But setting standards doesn’t just apply to what you want out of them. As a new manager, you need to set standards for communication, tasks to be completed, the way your employees interact with one another and your clients, and more.

Setting standards in all of these categories should be part of your onboarding plan. The key is to make sure they’re reasonable, consistently communicated, and repeatable. You want your team to feel comfortable knowing what’s expected of them, how to perform or communicate in a way that makes sense and is effective time and time again and to thrive in their role.

It’s also a good idea to talk about your standards and expectations with them, and be open to their ideas. New employees will almost always have ideas for cool new ways to do things, or how they feel the most comfortable communicating or sharing feedback, and that’s great! The whole point of having a team is having more than one brain in your business to think up multiple solutions to a problem and to pick the best idea as a team.

This might mean that, even though you’re the business owner, and even though your practice is your baby, your new employee has a rocking new way of doing things. Change can be scary, and it’s tough to relinquish control when you’re so accustomed to doing things your own way.

But change can also breathe new life into your business, create an even better client experience, and help you grow a practice that even better serves your needs or helps you to reach your personal and professional goals.

Let Go

While you’re thinking about what types of standards you want to set, or what expectations you have, it’s worthwhile to look inward, as well. Are your expectations in line with what’s reasonable to ask of an employee? Or are your expectations focusing on the minute details of how they accomplish tasks rather than focusing on what results they accomplish?

It’s easy to steer into micromanager territory when we’ve run our own business for a number of years. We’re used to doing things 100% our way, even if it’s not the best way around. There’s more than one way to do almost anything you can think of, and if you’re only concentrating on whether or not an employee is doing things your way, you might not be setting the type of standard or expectations you want to set as a business owner and manager.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t have a standard process for knocking out routine tasks or client work. But if you stay open to new processes and methods and keep the end result in mind, you’ll be able to set metrics that measure what actually matters. When you keep the end goal in mind, you also enable yourself and your new employee to set up valuable feedback strategies.

Being able to talk about which goals were achieved, and which weren’t, in a constructive way that doesn’t focus on the minutia can help to align your team’s vision. Allowing your new employee to give you respectful feedback, as well, can help build communication in your company and help you keep any micro-managing tendencies in check.

Know Yourself

Making the transition to manager isn’t always easy, and that’s why it’s so important to take the time to understand your personality strengths, both in life and in business. Managing a team isn’t a skill we’re innately born with. Management is a learned skill.

This is where taking a Strengthfinders test (or similar professional personality test) can come in handy. Understanding what your personal strengths and weaknesses are, or where you succeed in the workplace, can better help you communicate with your team, delegate tasks, and more.

If you’re ready to up your management game, don’t just cross your fingers and hope for the best. Dig in! There are so many different management courses available. You could take a business management course at a local community college, a project management class online to better manage your time and your new role of task delegation, or you could talk to a business coach about the best way to step into your role as a manager.

As you’re working to actively grow your skillset as a manager, you can ask yourself a few questions:

  • What kind of manager do I want to be?
  • How can I make that happen?

If you’re noticing consistent patterns or habits that are working against helping you be the type of manager you want to be, figure out why they keep cropping up. Ask questions about who you are, what your expectations are, and how you can step into your role as manager seamlessly.

It can be nerve-wracking, but becoming a manager should be an exciting experience. You’re going to learn a lot, and you’re going to grow a lot, and I’m fully confident you can handle whatever stress or growing pains that come with the journey.

I almost want to jump from the admirable to what happens once you've grown and skip this paragraph.

We can scrap it!

I am not sure if it goes in this section or down below, but taking some "Insights Discovery" training helps the team learn about one another and themselves. It helps the manager learn how team members give and receive information - how they process information and how they make decisions. All great stuff in building your team.


About Arlene Moss, Executive Coach

Arlene gets a kick out of helping financial advisors get over being overwhelmed and take on their frustrations so their businesses soar. Arlene works to ensure XYPN members are able to help their clients prosper while creating a sustainable business model. Through XYPN Academy and one-on-one coaching, members get the support they need to grow their businesses and overcome the challenges that come their way.

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