For advisers on the verge of a transition or succession, it can be difficult to sort through the noise and focus on what is vital.

But there is a simple rubric to help you guide them toward success and away from avoidable mistakes: scope, prioritize, quantify and execute.

Scope: The first step to take is to determine the broad scope of the change and all that is involved, in detail.

Advisers should begin with what they know: the existing business and goals for the change. For those evaluating potential firms, scrutinize areas related to the practice’s core business such as client agreements, investment and insurance platforms, and advisory contracts to see what lines up precisely and what needs to be planned for or evaluated further.

In this exercise, advisers are looking for important details, broad strokes and any areas of uncertainty, so they should invest the time required doing this themselves.

Prioritize: Once an adviser has established a clear set of variables that will affect the decision’s success, he or she is ready to rank and prioritize them based on their impact and need for fine-tuning.

An easy way to break them down is to determine which are most likely to ensure success, which are barriers that need to be overcome, which aren’t likely to have impact and which have specific timelines associated with them. Advisers should lean on their trusted networks and compile a dream team, as areas of uncertainty may not be complex if there is a resource or connection on which to rely.

Quantify: Break the priorities down into an ordered list.

Some will move side by side, while others have to happen one after another. Be sure to step back and set goals that are consistent with the decision’s scope.

For example, for the transition or successions’ target retention, how many clients by number and by AUM does the adviser want to move through the transition process? This may be 90% of the book of business but represent 100% of the goal.

Those who are bringing on partners may need to increase their stake, aligning this with their own plans for retirement. For advisers changing firms, they need to precisely plan how the days before and after the resignation will go.

Execute: Convert this list into periodic goals and quantify the responsibilities moving forward.

Expect that this is likely extra work added to daily duties. Advisers should expect to learn as they go and plan for flexibility as each step forward sheds clarity on the next.

Advisers are now ready to take action and will have to hold themselves accountable in order to progress as planned.

One note of caution: It can be very easy at this stage to focus priorities around projects that have high, measurable and predictable outcomes and their inverse, threats or problems with immediate cost and clear solutions. These are definitely important, but don’t let them become a reactive repeating response focused on short-term solutions.

This can prevent an adviser from tapping creativity to their advantage and inadvertently cause long-term results to be put on the back burner, with intent.

Finally, this time can be hectic and fast-moving. It is natural for advisers to feel as if they are falling behind, for each task accomplished, several were left without attention.

This is where steady progress and careful planning allow advisers to have peace of mind and know that they are indeed moving in the right direction, one good decision at a time.

This story is part of a 30-30 series on transitions.

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