PANC 2014: Team and Practice Building

Finders, minders and grinders are all critical members of successful retirement plan service teams, and growing an advisory practice will require all three skill sets working in concert.

“Finders are those that love the hunt and love to go out and look for business. Minders are those folks who identify themselves as relationship people, and grinders do the day-to-day service work,” explained Gordon Tewell, principal at Innovest Portfolio Solutions and a member of the practice building panel at the 2014 PLANADVISER National Conference, held earlier this month in Orlando.

These three groups are the heart and soul of a 401(k) adviser team, panelists said, explaining that the individual titles of “finder, minder and grinder” are attributed based on the distinct strengths of employees on a team. While the individual titles are a clever and catchy way to for advice professionals to identify their specialty, panelists said the titles also have a serious function—helping to further define an individual employees’ job tasks and ensuring efficient client service.

Tewell and the other panelists—including Janet Ganong, a financial consultant at The Kieckhefer Group, and Robert Massa, chief investment officer at Ascende Inc.—explained that any great advisory team needs a combination of all three skill sets. Bringing a finder, minder and grinder to client meetings, for example, can demonstrate a firm’s diverse expertise and help ensure all client questions will be answered skillfully on the spot. Each team member should feel comfortable taking the lead on different types of client inquiries, and the conservation should flow easily to the adviser who is most informed on a given topic.

Of course, any given team will develop an original working dynamic depending on the structure of the firm and the unique skills of the individual team members, panelists said. Ganong addressed the fact that she has to be highly aware of structure because she works in a small firm, where adding two people could be about a 50% staff increase. This affects the dynamics of the team-building effort and the balance of finders, minders and grinders.

With team dynamics playing such an important role in the success of a firm, choosing new hires is a also a critical process, panelists said. The experts described the ideal candidate as one who is teachable and coachable, not necessarily one with the most skill up front. Employers should strive to teach their employees everything they know and then trust them to get the job done. In addition, panelists said advisory firms should strive to hire men and women who will not just get the job done for the sake of the employer, but also for the sake of the client and the team as well.

The panelists further discussed different ways in which they build comradery at their own firms. Massa, for instance, said he sits down with his team for a meeting at least once each week. Tewell pointed to industry events and community service programs his team participates in outside of the office, leading to closer relationships and shared experiences among team members.

The experts also acknowledged the significance of building a sense of team and individual accountability. They said the best team members will recognize the need to take responsibility for their actions, as well as the need to identify and respond to mistakes.