Assessing the Advisor-Client Relationship: Consider the Client’s Persistence

Larry Gard of Hamilton-Chase Consulting is a member of XPX Chicago
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Ninth 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 is the ninth and final article in a series highlighting matters that should be considered by advisors and clients before they agree to work together.

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”  Thomas Edison

By their very nature some projects are long, involved, and complex.  Even short-term projects can run into delays, complications, and unforeseen difficulties that extend the duration of the work.  If clients lose interest or give up easily in the face of obstacles, they may find it hard to remain enthusiastic and engaged throughout the course of the project, threatening its success.

Consider the case of Leslie.  An accountant by training, she was also an accomplished cook who found great satisfaction baking bread for her family and friends.  When the pandemic struck her accounting practice dwindled, and Leslie found herself making more loaves than ever before.  She decided that this was her opportunity to make a career change.  Leslie hired an advisor to craft a detailed roadmap, listing the tasks ahead of her and suggestions for how to approach them.  Leslie had already drafted a business plan, so she and her advisor turned their attention to securing funding and finding suitable space.  With her accounting background Leslie easily understood the various loan options available, but she was disappointed to learn that the pandemic had slowed approval decisions and caused some institutions to tighten their lending standards.  Although she was excited about finding a space for her bakery, she found the real estate hunt to be physically and emotionally draining.  It seemed as if every commercial space she saw had a significant flaw; either the rent was too high, the cooking area required too much renovation, parking was difficult, and so on.  After three months of looking for a loan and a location Leslie felt discouraged, and she asked her advisor if they could put the project on hold for a few weeks.  Two months later she took a part-time accounting job with an old friend.

Given the magnitude of this project, Leslie’s advisor probably should have tried up front to gauge her ability to persevere by saying, “I’m eager to help you succeed.  Tell me about other big projects or initiatives you’ve pursued besides this one.”

Sometimes an advisor can forestall a client’s discouragement by discussing the project and identifying challenges in advance.  The advisor might have said, “Let’s review the steps and timeline for this project so you can see the entire sequence and get a feel for the scope of what we’ll be doing together.  Before we begin each stage of the project, we should go over the specific tasks each of us will tackle.  That will give us a chance to spot any potential delays or hurdles we should watch out for.”

Not all clients give up easily.  Some are more than willing to stick with a long-term project even if obstacles are encountered.  They will likely remain interested and engaged throughout the course of the project and anticipate the same from their advisor.  Such persistence is a strength, but both parties should be willing to switch gears if they find themselves investing too much energy pursuing the impossible.  The advisor might say, “I appreciate your effort to stick with this project even if it hits some roadblocks.  That kind of persistence will help us carry this past the finish line. That said, we will also need to be willing to switch gears if we find ourselves trying to make the unworkable work.”

This is the final article in the series titled “Assessing the Advisor-Client Relationship”.  Each week, I explored a new element affecting the advisor-client relationship in some detail.  These articles were intended to help you understand potential opportunities and obstacles when working on long-term strategic engagements.

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

Updated: March 23rd, 2022

About The Author

Call Me When… 1. A client feels unsure about retirement (or their next chapter) and could benefit from coaching to sort through the head and heart issues. 2. You would like a pre-retirement workshop. Please visit www.donewithwork.org