Sometimes, it is just plain hard to see the truth—especially when we have a particularly difficult situation to confront. At times like these, everyone else seems to have 20/20 vision, while we may be blinded to what’s right in front of us.
In my experience, advisers are not immune to this difficulty, particularly when it comes to their business. Let’s take a look at some common scenarios I’ve seen over the years. As you read, I encourage you to ask yourself, does this sound like me?
The lingering practice. An adviser reaches a stage in his career where he is allowing his business to linger. It has gone beyond having a “lifestyle practice,” although those are the words he uses to describe it. The practice has been shrinking for years, the adviser has slacked off on staying up to date with industry developments and he has become sloppy in his interactions with clients. In fact, he has become quite lax in managing the business itself. Still, the adviser thinks he can continue down the same road, unable to see a reason to change.
The faux mentor. An adviser tells herself that she is acting as a mentor to an associate adviser. But what is she really doing? Simply providing a salary and a desk in the office. Of course, young advisers don’t learn by osmosis! They need face time with their mentors, as well as structured practice and feedback.
Business development (in)activity. An associate adviser believes he is actively pursuing business development. The reality, however, is that he is spending his time reading journals and perusing social media. There is no networking, no asking for meetings and no pursuit of new business. If questions about this lack of business activity come up? The adviser is quick to point out that he is busy servicing clients or analyzing the market.
Poor people management. A firm has high staff turnover, but the founder tells herself that this is due to a competitive marketplace, incompetent employees or poor hiring decisions. The core issue, however, is that the firm does not have strong people management practices in place. Performance reviews are given lip service, job descriptions do not exist and a culture of motivation is sorely lacking.
The flip side. Of course, “telling it like it is” may look quite different from the examples above. Plus, there is a flip side to consider: many advisers are (too) hard on themselves. For example, take the adviser who focuses only on the problems and all that is wrong. In fact, he is an excellent adviser to his clients, as well as an excellent CEO of his business. This, too, is a truth that should be acknowledged.
What’s Your Truth?
A hallmark of a good consultant is telling the truth. A hallmark of a great consultant is asking the questions that help you discover the truth for yourself. So, what are the hard truths you need to face? If you can’t find them, I encourage you to enlist the support of a great consultant to help you dig just a bit deeper.