If a potential client asks you whether your firm is taking on new clients, do you know what to say? Too often RIAs fumble the answer, trying to size up the prospect's net worth on the spot rather than providing a straight answer, says Joe Duran, founder and chief executive officer of United Capital Financial Partners, an RIA firm that oversees a national network of private wealth counseling firms. During an interview excerpted here, Duran talked about the client load question-particularly urgent in this climate-yet too few advisors know how to respond to it.

"Whenever we talk to advisors, even when they have $1.5 billion in assets, I ask them: 'How many client slots can you handle? They say, 'Probably 20.' And where is the bottleneck? They say, 'I don't know. I've never thought about it.' Well, every doctor knows that. Every nurse knows that. Every dentist knows that. Every accountant knows it. And we're sitting here, claiming to be service professionals. How can we possibly not know the answer to that question?

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