Being a “Trusted Advisor” Requires a Little Nudge….
A trusted business advisor does more than “answer questions,” he/she takes the initiative to communicate best practices clearly, and effectively prompts the client to action. This includes removing misperceptions and unrealistic expectations that hinder healthy growth.
CPAs, attorneys, M&A specialists, bankers, exit planners, and insurance brokers who cherish the role of trusted business advisor should be aware of one unrealistic expectation their clients have that consistently hinders the clients’ profitability. It is the belief that each department head should possess, without any outside professional assistance, the ability to not just stay within budget, but run their department at 100% cost efficiency.
Key Insight: Most departments operate within budget.
Almost no department runs at 100% cost efficiency.
Example: The owner/CEO of a company should expect his logistics department to get product to market on time and within budget. This is a healthy expectation. But what if an outside specialist finds that the freight costs are only at 70% cost efficiency and that getting freight rates to 100% cost efficiency will save the company substantial amounts?”
There are two responses the owner/CEO can offer:
a. Unhealthy: “I pay the VP of Logistics to get the best rates, so it’s bad if an outside audit discovers that we’re in budget but not at 100% cost efficiency.”
b. Healthy: “If we can learn more and be more profitable with an audit that shows where we can be most cost efficient, that’s good for the VP of Logistics and me and the company.”
Set Expectations and Know When to Nudge
If you are a trusted advisor, you may agree with this thinking but how well and how consistently do you impart this “learner’s mentality” to your clients? Do not assume that your clients automatically have a healthy mindset. The advisors who teach this distinguish themselves from all the others who just assume the owner/CEO already thinks this way.
For trusted business advisors who want to rise above all others, consider this script:
STEP ONE: Summarize the concept in 1-2 sentences: “Joe, there’s a consulting firm I want you to meet that audits cost efficiencies in a company to find rebates and refunds, including tax refunds and specialized tax credits. This is not redundant to work that your staff* already does, it’s specialized audits and the savings are pretty large and it’s worth the attention of any owner who wants to grow profit and cash flow.”
STEP TWO: Anticipate misperceptions. “Yes, Joe, I know you run lean and you pay staff to keep an eye on costs but this is the kind of audit work that really requires specialization. That’s why the savings can be so large and need to be entertained by you, the person who is the direct beneficiary of the savings.”
STEP THREE: Nudge (gently). The best advisors know that a gentle but persuasive nudge is needed to overcome the number one enemy of growth: inertia. Those who do, gain more results and more trust than those who wait for “whenever.” That same nudging skill is going to be needed every time misperceptions threaten to cloud the owner’s judgment.
When the CEO misperceives his staff’s capabilities, it’s the job of the best advisors, to restate reality.
Owner: “Saving money on utilities is the job of my VP of Facilities.”
Advisor: “The primary mission of facilities is to ensure the operating costs of your building staff are within budget. His specialty isn’t going to be utility tariff analysis, is it?”
Owner: “Reducing cost of health insurance is the job of my HR Director/VP.”
Advisor: “The primary mission of HR is to keep company staffed with quality employees within the budget assigned. Is it possible there are savings that could be gained that an outside expert would be able to show you and HR?”
Setting the Follow-up Expectation
Once money shows up, there is a tendency to fall back to “Why didn’t we think of this ourselves?!” This is a destructive question that induces fear and makes executive staff apprehensive about further cost savings. For this reason, the advisor must continue to help the owner stay in a positive, realistic mindset that welcomes progress rather than questioning, or even impugning efforts prior to the audit.
There is a No-Cost, No-Risk Way to Slay the Beast
We only get paid if, and when our clients do. We do not want to charge fees without showing real results, and this approach has meant millions of “found” dollars in credits and savings for our clients that they otherwise would not have realized. A true win-win and a great relationship for any trusted advisor who would like to bring this kind of added value to their client base. To learn more, visit rareintro.com