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Practice Management > Building Your Business

The Accountability Myth

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Many owner advisors will tell you, just as they tell me, that the primary reason they hire a business consultant/coach is accountability.

That is, having a regularly scheduled call every two weeks forces them to think about their business on a regular basis, and keeps them “accountable” for doing whatever they said they’d do in the last call.

Hopefully, you can see the flaw in this thinking. By that reasoning, they’ll need to keep working with that consultant for the rest of their business career.

In my view, it’s a business consultant’s job — probably our most important job — to help clients become accountable to themselves, their employees, their clients, and their business. Therefore, they are accountable to the “process.”

The first three months of a new consulting client engagement is almost always the hardest. During that time, it’s my primary function to guide the firm owner to show up for our regularly scheduled meetings, which happen every two weeks.

And advisors are creative with coming up with various excuses on why they should do three weeks between meetings instead of two, or one meeting a week instead of every two weeks.

Then they have all sorts of rules: No meetings on Monday or Friday or Wednesday afternoon. I have heard all the excuses.

What to Do

This is precisely why they need a business consultant. If you can’t figure out how to organize your schedule so that you can make a one hour phone call every two weeks, what chance do you have for running a successful business?

So, I learned to stop being accommodating, and start being firm. “Sure, we can cancel our call,” I started telling them. “But you’ll just have to wait two weeks for the next call. And no, I won’t reduce your quarterly fee accordingly.”

You’d be surprised at how many of those clients suddenly figure out a way to make the call. Or maybe you wouldn’t. And with just that little bit of forced discipline, I started seeing dramatic changes in the way owner advisors viewed their role in their businesses.

It’s kind of a domino effect, and it works like this.

Once business owners develop the discipline to spend an hour or two thinking critically about their practices every week or two, they begin to see things differently.

First, they review what they decided they would do in our last planning session. And, if they hadn’t done most or even some of the actions on their list, they felt bad, like they let themselves and their business down.

During the next two weeks, they would make a real effort to get those actions done. What’s more, they became much more realistic about what they wanted to get done in the next two weeks.

Furthermore, they began to realize that successful businesses aren’t built on big long-term plans. They grow by taking small steps, one after another, and doing each one well.

This is the process:

  • Have one regular meeting to focus on your business (every two weeks is optimum for most firms),
  • Figure out what one action needs to be done now,
  • Take action,
  • Evaluate how it’s turning out and
  • Decide what needs to be done next.

It usually takes about six weeks to get owners into a rhythm of doing this regularly. Then, suddenly, they aren’t coming to our meetings looking to me for direction. Instead, they know what they want to do, and they’re looking for someone else to do it for them.

It has truly become their business, and then I can help them build it. In the end, to truly accept advice, you must become accountable to yourself.


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