Assessing the Advisor-Client Relationship: Consider the Client’s Future Time Perspective


Fourth article in a series . . .

If you work as a business advisor, you know that engagements can be unpredictable.  Whether helping the owner take advantage of a changing marketplace, or optimizing the business to prepare it for sale, these initiatives typically involve significant planning, coordination, and effort from both advisors and their clients.  Despite the best of intentions, these large-scale projects don’t always proceed smoothly.

There are many things that can affect the advisor-client relationship and make it harder for clients to accomplish the tasks associated with the project.  This article is the fourth in a series highlighting matters that should be considered by advisors and clients before they agree to work together.

“The past cannot be changed.  The future is yet in your power.”   Mary Pickford

Clients vary in the degree to which they think about and plan for the future of their business.  Those who give sufficient thought to long-range planning will be better positioned to respond to future opportunities and challenges. They will make better informed long-term business decisions that are more consistent with their goals.

Advisors should consider how the current project contributes to the client’s business in the long run.  They should also be alert to matters that need to be resolved before the project begins.  They can begin the discussion by asking, “What impact do you expect this project will have on your business?” or “How does this project fit within the context of your long-range business goals?”

Not every client has a strong future orientation.  They may be preoccupied with current affairs, or they believe that if they concentrate on matters at hand then the future will take care of itself.  Some people, because of their unique history, may not be wholly comfortable focusing on the future let alone planning for it.  They may dwell on the challenges they envision or the uncertainties they’re experiencing.

Consider Paula, a mid-career architect with an expanding practice she could no longer keep up with on her own.  She debated whether to invite a junior colleague to join her in the business, but she had experienced several downturns in her profession over the years and she worried that growth would be difficult to sustain. With all the unknowns, she found herself unable to focus beyond the next couple of years with any degree of confidence.  She decided to hire an advisor to help her map out and execute a strategic plan.  As the advisor inquired about her goals for the practice, Paula grew quiet and non-committal.  Her advisor made the following observation:

“My sense is that you’ve not had a chance to do much long-range preparation. That’s understandable; you’ve got a lot on your plate right now plus you’ve seen your share of recessions.  So, before we focus on specific goals let’s step back a bit and talk about the broad range of possibilities for your practice.”

Paula became more comfortable with the conversation, especially after her advisor pointed out that by planning for the future, she would be better positioned to take advantage of opportunities that might emerge. Feeling that Paula was now more open to establishing short-term and long-term goals, her advisor suggested that they work on a planning exercise in their next meeting.

Clients are more apt to accept an advisor’s recommendations if they see that there is a clear path linking the present to a desired future state.  Sometimes they just need a little help to be more forward thinking.

This is the fourth in a weekly article series titled “Assessing the Advisor-Client Relationship”.  Each week, I will explore a new element affecting the advisor-client relationship in some detail.  These articles will help you understand potential opportunities and obstacles when working on long-term strategic engagements.  The next article will explore the client’s tendency to procrastinate.

Please feel free to reach out for more information or assistance proactively assessing the potential advisory relationship.


Updated: Feb 21, 2022

About the author
Larry Gard of Hamilton-Chase Consulting is a member of XPX Chicago

I provide brief pre-retirement coaching to help your clients transition to a satisfying next chapter. Please visit