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.
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.