Support staff is money well spent

Tina Haapala |

This week, I continue my discussion about lessons learned in my first 20 years of business. Although everything I read about when a financial advisor should bring in their first support staff said I should wait until certain income and client levels were met, I decided to go my own way. Not that the consultants, the studies, the guidance were wrong. It is likely very good advice in general. It may just be that I’m not general. Instead I added up the things I didn’t like or wasn’t good at doing, along with the tasks that I wasn’t required to handle, and when there were enough to keep someone else busy, I hired someone.

More than likely, the key to my success started with those early hires. People like Gina, Rene and Veronica allowed me to leverage my time where I made the most difference, ensured that my clients were taken care of when I was distracted (I tend to be the absent-minded professor type), and raised the quality of work in the areas they were assigned. 

And they cost me money—kind of. What do I mean by that? Simple: They indeed cost me money in that I paid them for their time. But they enabled me to make much more than I paid them. They allowed me to work directly with more clients, do more things, and do them better than if I was there by myself. Not only that, but they also became a sounding board to critique and improve ideas I had or to help me discard those that reached too far or in a wrong direction.

I believe this communication strategy is strength of our firm. I tend to be quite open with my staff as to what’s going on in our industry and our business. I don’t sugarcoat when things are bad. If we messed up somewhere and an investigation points to me, I’m the one doing the pointing. And while they may not have been a part of a decision, I tried to explain what decisions had been made and why. No, I am not perfect in any of this, but when I succeeded, it was, in part, from the beneficial input received from them.

My background prior to the financial services world was in the area of industrial training and development. So I appreciated early on the importance of training my employees. The reality was, however, that I often did not have the time to do so. To compensate, I gave them time to learn on their own (paid) and at available seminars, workshops, and conferences.

In all of this, don’t think of me as a wonderful, generous, kind, caring person who only thinks of my employee’s welfare. (Okay you can think it, but you might want to ask them first.) Rather staffing is a way in which my business can leverage and make more money. And I find the money comes in handy.


This article was published in the Wichita Falls Times Record News on August 24, 2014.