Guests: Rick Kent, CEO of Merit Financial Advisors, a firm with $10 billion in advised assets.

In a Nutshell: Almost all successful independent advisors eventually face a moment of truth. Do you want to maintain a safe, comfortable lifestyle practice where you get to keep serving your client base, set your own hours, and cash a good paycheck? Or do you want to become the strategic leader your firm needs to achieve meaningful scale and, potentially, 10X the impact you can have on your clients, your employees, and your family?

When we talked at the 2024 Barron’s Advisor Independent Summit, Rick Kent explained how he navigated that crossroads in his own career and used servant leadership to build a cohesive team that’s united by a shared vision for the future. Rick’s story is a great example of how building trusting relationships, enabling teams, and having an exciting vision can propel your organization to great success.

.Rick Kent and I discuss:

  • Embracing servant leadership by flipping your org chart and serving your team.
  • The personal development plans Merit creates for over 250 employees to help them find their true purpose in the firm.
  • What Rick wishes he’d done sooner to accelerate his transition from advisor to CEO.
  • How Rick managed key inflection points on Merit’s growth trajectory.
  • How the Japanese philosophy of “kaizen” informs Merit’s core values.
  • The investments in tech and AI that Rick has made to improve efficiency and the client experience.
  • Creating “Plus One” service experiences that clients will never forget.

.Rick Kent Quotes: 

Flip your org chart:

“I think about an organizational chart where, typically, you have the CEO at the top, you have these lines that go down and connect with the c-suite, and it goes down to other people. In servant leadership, I think what you do is you take that chart and just flip it upside down. The leader is really serving people. The leader needs to eat last, needs to take care of those people. If you want to grow a business, the more you pour into people and your team, the more you’re going to get out.”

Flip the CEO switch:

“I moved all my client relationships over to another advisor. All of ’em. Every single one. And after I did that, I looked back and thought, why didn’t I do that sooner? It’s one of those big learning moments, and here’s why. There’s only so much capacity in a day, right? And I’m a firm believer that the mind is very powerful and you become what you think about. So if I’m thinking about clients all the time, I’m going to do a good job of servicing those clients. If I take the equal amount of time that’s in the day and think about growing the business and being the CEO of the business and helping the people in the business and building out the team, a lot gets done. I just didn’t have that time before. And as soon as I flipped that switch, I started watching the company take off .”

Transform our industry:

“I see it happening out there. Advisors are connecting with people, they’re learning things, they’re being challenged themselves and thinking about, ‘Okay, if this guy’s doing that, this company’s doing that, what can I do?’ And I just want to remind all the advisors that are listening, boy, you have tremendous potential, and even a responsibility. You have knowledge and wisdom that can help a lot of people. Don’t take that lightly. Think about the value that you can create. And it’s fun, right? I love this business. It’s a lot of fun. And it’s pretty rewarding when you can create value for the clients you serve and the team that you’re building around you.”

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