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A Fresh Way to Overcome Growing Pains

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When advisory firm owners come to me for advice, they usually know what they want to do but are looking for validation. If  I suggest an alternative course of action — one that I think may be more likely to succeed — they often get mad or frustrated.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with firm owners coming up with solutions to the challenges their business face. But owners can get into trouble when they get so attached to their ideas that they don’t want to listen to potential problems or options that could prove more beneficial.

Over the years, I’ve run into these situations so often, that I’ve stopped trying to convince owners of the errors in their thinking. Instead, I point out that I’ve seen hundreds of firms try that exact solution.

Next, I tell them the problems that will arise to prevent their solution from achieving the results they are hoping for.  I conclude by admitting that’s it’s just my experience and observation, and I’m willing to help them if they still want to try it their way.

Usually they do, we go ahead, and we get disappointing results. At this point, one of two things happen: They either end our relationship, because they need someone to blame, or they decide to listen and work together for a solution that will be workable for the challenges they are facing.  

I’m telling you about this all-too-common scenario in the hopes that you’ll take it to heart and avoid making the same mistake: That is, being unwilling to admit that you don’t know everything. Here’s a secret, I don’t know everything either.

Nobody really knows what will work best for your business, in your market, with your employees, your skills, and your goals. That means you’re going to have to try things and see how they work out.

However, that doesn’t mean that people can’t know which ideas have a higher success or failure rate. After seeing some things tried hundreds of times, I have a pretty good idea of what won’t work out. But, perhaps most important, by trying out different we learn why they don’t work out.  

The independent advisory business has nearly 50 years of experience under its belt. With these growing pains and experiences of thousands of firms, you’re probably not going to come up with a “new idea” to solve the challenges that all firms face. I am not saying you won’t, but it’s a long shot.

Reaching Out

As a suggestion, instead of assuming you are Elon Musk of the advisory world, I often suggest that owner advisors seek out as much help with their “new” ideas as they can find. In doing so, you build a team around you to get all different perspectives to help you make a better decision on a solution to a problem you are facing.

Now, getting “help” doesn’t simply mean business consultants. Obviously I have a conflict of interest in saying so. However, I will say that working with an expert who has seen what’s worked — and what hasn’t — for many firms can save an owner a lot of time and money.

But, I’m also talking about the people that business owners surround themselves with. For some reason, many owner advisors feel they have to build their businesses virtually by themselves. Those who do, have mediocre businesses at best. It takes a village.

In my experience, the most successful owners surround themselves with people who can help them make better business decisions. Study groups, local business people, other advisors, and even some clients can be great resources to get suggestions and bounce your ideas off.

Open Door

And, perhaps, the most overlooked resources in most advisory businesses are the employees, themselves. They often know your business — or some part of it — as well or better than you do. Consequently, they can be great resources for exploring the pros and cons of new ideas; what’s likely to work in your business — and what isn’t.

Unfortunately, many owner advisors tend to surround themselves with people who are likely to agree with them. And to weed out or ignore those who challenge their ideas or come up with overlooked perspectives.

This is major mistake. The most successful people I know are constantly concerned with “what haven’t I thought of,” when making decisions.  

Ultimately, as the firm owner, the final decisions are up to you. Which means that the success or failure of your ideas is ultimately up to you. Getting  other perspectives, especially from people who aren’t afraid to disagree with or challenge you can greatly increase your chances of success — or avoiding failure.

In my work, sometimes, even when I agree with what my clients are saying, I will play the devil’s advocate and challenge them. I don’t do it often, but when there is hesitation, I know the client is not all that sure about their solution. In challenging it, they learn to validate it on their own.

Got Confidence?

Many business owners in the advisory space lack confidence in their business decision. If I challenge it, they get more confident in it or decide it’s not the solution and ask for help. This creates more confident business owners. It also ensures that they really believe in the decision they are making.

The success of new ideas or programs in a business often rests upon getting buy-in from everyone involved. It’s hard to get buy-in to implement when you’ve made a decision that you aren’t confident in yourself. To become confident in your decisions is to learn to validate them on your own. When you learn to do this, you often seek ideas to improve them.

While many advisory firm owners seek consultants and coaches to gain validation, my wish for all advisory firm business owners in 2019 is that you get the help you need to make your decisions better.

If you always have someone validating your decisions, you never learn to be confident in them on your own. And, you will end up in a vortex of always needing someone there before you make them.

This pattern stalls your growth and your firm growth. My hope is, you are blessed enough in 2019 to be surrounded by people who care about your growth. Not always those who validate it.

As the year comes to a close, I wish all of you the happiest and healthy of New Year’s. I am extremely grateful for all of you and your support, comments and emails this past year.

You, the readers, are why I keep writing. I am especially grateful for those of you who challenge my writing. You make me better. Thank you to all of you.