Who is Advising the Advisor?

Ideas that spread (if they are WOW, inspirational and memorable), win.

The formula for success of professional practice is a clear demonstration of that, and continues to be so for some firms.

Structurally, though, not much has changed.

But, with the step-change in the industry that is underway, who is advising the advisors?

  • The banks?
  • The accountants?
  • The Regulators?
  • Third party advisors? Or
  • The market (by a process of osmosis)?

There are conferences a plenty but it is unlikely that you are going to commit to a new modus operandi on the basis of a speaker, billed as key note or otherwise.

In the end the partnership advises itself.

And we all know what that feels like.

S……l……o……w (and very painful!).

I have previously talked about strategy being a consequence of execution. It wasn’t me who posited this but one Jack Welch formerly of G.E. But that is all well and good if you are getting the basics right day in day out. But are you?

We all know that profit stands head and shoulders above all else, but that which goes up and up does not keep going up and up (no matter how closed the market is). At some stage the bubble bursts or, as in the instant case, regulation is forced on the market which necessitates change.

If change is inevitable, and it is only the degree that we are left to debate, then make it of strategic importance. And more than that you have to change your mindset around the timing and implementation. Don’t try to convince yourself that the tortoise always wins. It is the one who is able to dominate a market by being first in the market that wins.

If you must set up yet another committee to advise the partnership then make it happen (a bit Star Trekish I know). Don’t pontificate about this personality or that character trait. The touchstone for composition should be passion. Don’t appoint anyone who is not passionate about the people that work in the business, the clients and the firm’s brand (in that order).

Once you have assembled your committee then go to work on the practice.

As I have said many times before, adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. Try to imagine that you are in start up phase, and invite a response to the question:

“How can we build the best firm in the world.”

It should become obvious where there is a lacuna in the advice that you need to answer that question. Yes, you might want to keep happy the usual band of advisors but why don’t you adopt a different mindset?

Look outside of the profession.

Whatever measure of success you adopt, why don’t you invite others to comment on your plans? It might be a local business person, a sporting hero or your local celebrity.

OK, they may know nothing about your business or the sector that you operate within but you bet they will know a lot about people, the mindset of success and perhaps how to stand out and be recognised.

I can hear you already shooting down the idea. But it’s an idea.

And that is one thing that the profession lacks is imagination. If my time in practice taught me anything, there are too many people that exist to tell those in control what they want to hear. They are too afraid to say otherwise. Even if your committee is composed of the right people, there is no reason to think that they will have all or any of the answers.

And as for getting it right…

“We need to go smaller and niche.”

“We need to grow our commercial practice.”

“We need to drop that stupid logo.”

“That department is holding us back from expanding into new markets.”

Now none of these are revelatory but I would bet they, or something similar to them, are still talked about up and down the country. That’s fine but who is taking the initiative to understand if they are the right thing to do? Your A-team of partners who have taken you to this point?

Frankly for a lot of people they don’t care or not nearly as much as they pretend. As long as they can continue to enjoy the same lifestyle as previously then they are content to sit back and not rock the boat.

Well if the boat isn’t rocking now it soon will be.

Summary

Chose your band of advisors carefully.

It’s OK to listen to yourself, but if you have existed in the same industry for the last 20+ years, accept that your thinking may be a bit off.

Form a change group comprised of passionate people.

Don’t focus on the hard stuff all the time. Think about the soft, emotional aspects of your practice.

Be selfless with your ideas.

Drop the facade that only certain people are capable of advising you. Look further afield.

Be brave with your decision-making.

Move swiftly to change.

If you expect to always get it right then it is likely that you will never make a real decision, and instead will be in tinker mode. Unfortunately, more of the same just won’t cut it.

And don’t be afraid to fail. Failing quicker is better than waiting on a slow death.

And finally, think Excellence. Yes, I know it is an obsession of mine but what else is there?

~ Julian Summerhayes ~