With another batch of podcasts in the books and now four years of consistent, monthly episodes, we’d like to once again thank everyone who has listened, subscribed, and given feedback on The COO Roundtable. We’ve enjoyed having these discussions and hearing your responses to them. Our interviews to date have included ninety-six operations professionals at sixty-one multi-billion-dollar RIAs across the country, together accounting for over $810 billion in client assets under management. With so many unique topics discussed in the past five episodes, we felt it was the perfect time to recap the top five lessons we’ve learned from our most recent guests. You can also check out the top lessons from previous episodes here. Read on for our highlights from episodes forty-six to fifty!
In episode 46, Matt spoke with second-time guest Stacey McKinnon about her recent paper “Your Career is Up to You.” Matt and Stacey spoke honestly about their own experiences and how to unlock the best version of yourself. When asked why Stacey feels that it’s important for employees to possess an ownership mindset regarding their career, she explained, “When I say that your career is up to you, I’m not saying that other people don’t play a significant role in it. I’m saying it’s up to you to find those people who are going to help you to get to where you want to go. That’s why I’m so passionate about it. I guess when I hear about people who are unhappy and sad, it truly is because they feel like they don’t have that control, and they don’t have those people, and they feel they are lacking those resources. In writing the paper, I wanted to suggest that they actively seek out those people that will benefit your career You can do it. You can find them. I have people reach out to me on LinkedIn all the time for one-on-one conversations because they’re stuck, and they just want someone to collaborate with and pass ideas by. I’m happy to do that, too. There are a lot of people out there in our industry, and they’re willing to help.”
For episode 47, Matt welcomed Julie Allen and Chris Pelch, two guests who discussed how their firms evaluate potential technology vendors, how they each handle career development, and their top initiatives heading into 2023. With so much on their plates, naturally Matt asked our guests how they manage to prioritize their time. When asked this question, Julie said, “…delegation is the key and providing oversight and direction to the team really does help get everyone moving in the same direction. Sometimes, chasing the next shiny object isn’t a good thing. Last year we said we’re putting a moratorium on great new ideas. No more great ideas until we cross over this one threshold. I think that really helped a lot for the teams to know that they weren’t going to be getting any additional new projects on their plate. And, understanding where everybody is functioning in their unique ability,what everybody’s great at, and what they enjoy doing – it really makes delegation so much easier.” Chris added, “One important lesson that I’ve learned in my time on the job so far is the truth behind the cliché, ‘When everything’s important, nothing’s important.’ I think that has proven out for me many times over the last two years.
I think it’s very easy in this role to chase after shiny objects; you end up spreading yourself too thin and you’re spread across too many different fronts. What I’ve found is that priorities are going to emerge, and you can either decide to set them yourself or you can allow them to happen to you. In the past, I’ve oftentimes allowed them to happen to me, and while sometimes things turn out for the best that way, chances are you’re going to feel overwhelmed more often than not. I spent a lot of time on setting priorities, not just for myself, but for others on the team. For most people at our firm, there’s more work on their plate than can get done in the day or the week and so I’m frequently spending my time in meetings with folks helping them to review their open-ended lists of projects and tasks, and helping them reestablish priorities to set them on the right path.”
In this episode, Matt was joined by Daryl Seaton and Barrett Karvis, two guests who support larger-than-average RIAs and can speak to the operational processes that come with the territory. Together they tackled customization vs scalability, how the COO affects the firm’s culture and metrics they use to gauge the firm’s health. Our guests also answered an important question – who does the COO lean on for support? Daryl stated, “Internally, I have to say there are two areas where I find support. One, our leadership team here is absolutely exceptional. We’ve been very intentional about recruiting top talent and just making sure that they’re resourced, that we’re developing them personally and professionally, and providing those opportunities they want. I can’t say enough about them and what they do day in and day out, honestly, to not only make me and the firm look good, but to really serve our advisors at the level they and their teams do is truly amazing. I could not do that without them. The second thing I would mention is that we’re an EOS firm. I think Sowell was on maybe EOS 3.0 when I got here, and the founder and CEO, Bill Sowell, said, ‘Help! Could you please get this on track?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, I’ve never used it before, but I’d love to.’ I dove right into it. I had a friend of mine that was a business coach and was starting to get involved in EOS and he’s come in as our implementer.” Barrett added, “What we’ve tried to do is structure the firm into departments. We have our team lead for strategy, our team lead for portfolio management, our team lead for our client service and operations, and our team lead for business development, and our team lead for financial planning. These are all managing directors and/or partners at the firm. We have that backup and support for people who have been here 10 to 15 years, not only at Edge, but then they’ve been working 10 to 15 years prior to that in wirehouses, broker-dealers, and these team leads just have a vast array of industry knowledge. We all just partner together and collaborate and it’s a real team effort.”
In episode 49, our listeners heard an in-depth view of the COO role at a growing RIA from our guests Edgar Collado and Alex Satterfield. When asked how they determine which functions of their firm could be outsourced, Edgar stated, “It’s always difficult when you’re thinking about outsourcing, and I always come back to, what capabilities I either need or want to have at the firm. And am I willing to invest in that internally, or am I okay handing that off to someone else? I know a lot of firms, for example, work with PEOs, and they outsource a lot of the HR-related tasks, and we’ve talked about it, and it comes up every couple of years, but for me, that’s a capability that I think is so important in our industry that I don’t want to outsource this. I’d rather do it in-house, even if it takes us a little bit more time. I want to have the flexibility to do HR the way we want to do it, because it is such an important aspect of our business, and even something like payroll where you think, ‘Hey, I’m going to outsource my payroll, and I can just go to sleep and not worry about it.’ It’s just not the way it works. Ultimately, the buck is going to stop with us, and if someone has an issue with their paycheck, or if there’s a bonus that needs to be paid out or a raise that needs to be reflected, these are all things that need to come from us.” Alex added, “I think Edgar brought it up perfectly, ‘What are the capabilities that you need and have to have?’ But then it’s, ’What’s the best path to get it?’ You’re going to interview any person that you want to bring in and hire full-time. Edgar says he interviews his vendor relationships and prospects, and that’s exactly how you should think of it. You have to interview them too, but you also have to check in and make sure that they’re going in the right direction. You have to recognize thatwhoever you’re interviewing as a vendor, that’s their sales team. It’s their professional interviewer, right? They are the pro at interviewing. You’ve got to go a step past that with your due diligence to make sure you’re on the same page with a reasonable set of expectations. That’s how you have a truly long-lasting, durable partnership with outside vendors. That’s what you want. You want a partner for your business.”
In our milestone episode 50, Matt was joined by Allison Felix and Scott Brown for an honest and genuine conversation about career advancement, HR, client experience, service offerings, and much more. When asked how she takes care of herself to ensure she is at her best for her team, Allison said, “One of the things that we are implementing at our firm, and I will be taking my own shortly, is a short-term sabbatical. This is really not something that is prevalent in our industry. It is not something that we’ve even tried before, but we take the health and well-being of our employees seriously enough that we want to give them that break. Sometimes the vacation for a week while your kids are on vacation from school, is really not going to cut it. Whether you use a meditation app, whether you see your doctor, whether you find a support group. All those things are just so critical to keeping going and energized.” Scott added, “For no good reason other than pure ignorance, I really thought meditation was a joke most of my life. Then I was at this annual physical years ago, and I had this really good doctor who took the time to ask me what I did for work and my stress level. Once he found out what I did, he laughed and said, ‘Listen, you’re never going to be able to remove stress from your job, so you have to learn how to accept it and manage it.’ He recommended, the app Headspace. I try to do it every day, maybe 10 minutes a day or every other day, even if I’m in the office. Listen, I don’t sit on a yoga mat and put my fingers in the air and close my eyes and do it, but it’s more like breathing exercises and just resetting. It may sound a little campy, but it really helps.”