Eighth 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 eighth in a series highlighting matters that should be considered by advisors and clients before they agree to work together.
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” – Henry Ford
You may provide clients with terrific suggestions and outstanding advice, but in most instances it remains up to them to follow through with your guidance. Even if your client has the time, motivation, and skills necessary to carry out your recommendations, they may struggle if they doubt their own abilities. If your clients don’t believe in themselves, they may hesitate to act, sabotage their own effort, request easy solutions that prove to be insufficient, or reject your advice altogether.
Consider the case of Brandon, the 37-year-old owner of a small firm that fabricates custom architectural detailing for historic buildings. Brandon invested in the equipment necessary to make interior and exterior pieces from limestone and terra cotta, but his time and energy had been consumed helping his employees produce products that were precisely crafted and historically accurate. Knowing that he needed to get the word out about his business, Brandon hired a marketing consultant. The advisor put together a comprehensive plan that included producing short videos highlighting product installations, and he identified opportunities for Brandon to speak at upcoming conferences geared toward architects and contractors. Brandon knew that these were worthwhile steps he could take. Unfortunately, he disliked public speaking and he was reticent about appearing on camera. Deep down, he simply didn’t see himself as someone who could market his business. He declined the advisor’s suggestions and settled instead for a refreshed website that he hoped might showcase his firm’s work.
In their first meeting, the advisor might have asked Brandon about past challenges by inquiring, “what sort of business problems have you faced before and how do they compare to this one?” The advisor could have added, “I want to address any concerns you have about this project. As you think about marketing your firm, are there any aspects of doing so that might be a stretch for you?” In response, Brandon might have mentioned his discomfort serving as the public face of his company, and the advisor could have tailored his recommendations accordingly. For example, he could have suggested that Brandon help write scripts for the videos and ask his employees if they wanted on-camera roles.
Clients won’t always admit that they lack confidence in their ability to resolve business problems. Advisors need to be attuned to signals that their client is uncomfortable. In the scenario above, Brandon might have verbally agreed that speaking to architects was a good idea, but his facial expression was probably less than enthusiastic.
This is the eighth 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, the last in this series, will explore the client’s level of persistence.
Please feel free to reach out for more information or assistance proactively assessing the potential advisory relationship.