Trusted Advisor (Issue 795)

In which we are reminded that advising, earning trust, and  generating value beyond our products involves looking beyond the needs our products address.

The walk from  my car to the revolving door front entrance in the Burlington Marriott Hotel couldn’t have been more than 50 yards, yet my cheeks and chin felt like sharp-edged ice pressed against them and my eyes stung.  To the south east, yellowish watery-thin sun lit gaps  between horizon-wide gray cloud streaks, brightening the tops of snowbanks piled high on either side of the sidewalk. Cold.  January nasty cold.

Here to meet my investment advisor, early for the appointment, I spread out on a couch in the Marriott main lobby so he could see me, pulled out my laptop, and began work, chilled from time to time by cold air pushed across the room by the revolving door as hotel guests fled into the dawn.

At 8:00 am, I felt a hint of warmth next to me and I looked up to see Dave’s hand extended to shake mine.

“Good morning, Happy New Year,” he smiled. “How’ve you been?”

“I’ve been well, thanks,” I replied. “Happy New Year. I’m looking forward to our investments discussion.”

Shedding his coat, scarf, and hat, he plonked down in the arm chair next to my couch.

“How did your business finish up the year?,” he asked.

I recapped the year, Clarity’s tenth, responding to Dave’s gentle  follow up questions along the way – “How much revenue?  Expenses?  How many people in the business? What do they do?”

When I’d finished, he fished around in his briefcase for the reports and paperwork we’d need for our ‘main event’ discussion about my investment and retirement accounts, then looked up.

“I have a question for you,” he said. “Why do you have a full-time office manager on-site in your business? At your size, I should think that half-time would be enough. As a percentage of sales, you’re spending, maybe, twice as much as you should on support. You could be using that money for other purposes.”

“Like investing it through you?” I smiled. “This is a long way from discussing my investment accounts.”

“We can talk about those. I’m just saying, business owner to business owner, I think you’re carrying too much expense and you might want to rethink it.”

Trusted advisors help businesses explore new ideas and discover solutions to unforeseen and critical issues. “Investment advisor” was too narrow a label for this guy.

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