What Do You Want To Do? (Issue 976)

In which we are reminded that an advisor’s first role may be to help clients clarify their goals.

I got word on Sunday afternoon that, last Friday evening, a man who had coached me through a pivotal transition in my business and who, over time, had become a friend, passed away at his desk. A tragic loss. Relatively speaking, he was still a young guy – warm, encouraging, thoughtful, and clear-eyed in his work. We were scheduled for a progress check-in this week. Very sad.

As I reflect on his path to earning my confidence and advising me on the direction of my business, a couple of things stand out. First, he asked me, as the business owner, “What do you want to do?” At the time, I wasn’t clear.

Then, he met with every one of my team members, asking for their perspectives; put us all through an assessment test; and returned with detailed findings about the strengths and gaps in our organization and our processes. “Here are the facts,” he said. “Basically, you have three options.”  He then, again, asked, “What do you want to do?”

I picked one of the three options.  “Great!”, he responded. “Write down, by year for the next five years, what you would need to accomplish to go that way and then do a cash flow  forecast for the five years and we’ll talk about it.”

I did as he asked and we several weeks later met in Cambridge on a snowy, January day to review my work.  I’d asked for a flip chart for the room.  After a little warm up, he said, “Please, write your forecast on the flip chart.”

He looked at my projection for a few minutes, in silence, then said, “Is that what you want to do?”

I looked at the chart for a moment.  “No.” I said. “I don’t want to do that.” There was a lot of red ink in the forecast for the first three years of the five.

“OK,” he said, “that’s clear.  So… Which of the other two options do you want to pursue?”

We discussed them, I picked one and, within an hour, we’d worked out next steps in broad strokes.

One of my network members, a wealth management specialist, said to me, once, “Many brokers have a deep understanding of investments. But it’s the rare broker who can help clients define their goals.”

That was it, that’s what he did. He reduced the solution set to three, brushed my nose with facts, and waited for me to choose – to define the goals. That done, the action planning was simple.  And I will be forever grateful.

Nick Miller and Clarity train banks and bankers to attract and develop deeper relationships with small businesses. Many more Sales Thoughts like this and a host of other articles and resources at https://clarityadvantage.com/knowledge-center/ .

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