A man’s got to know his limitations – quote from ”Dirty” Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) in Magnum Force
Over the years, I have had the honor of working with a variety of advisors to entrepreneurs. They may have been lawyers, investment bankers/advisors, industry mavens or just general business consultants and I must say, the vast majority were really fantastic. To me, a good advisor objectively highlights the pros and cons of an issue and presents their take on a solution, but does not force an answer on the owner. Not crossing this line is critical especially if you feel strongly one way about an issue, and the entrepreneur is leaning in the other direction. While it is painful, I have learned to respect the difference of opinion and have found in more instances than not, the entrepreneur was right. While you may as an advisor try to walk in the entrepreneur’s shoes, regardless of how dedicated you are, you are not thinking about their business 24/7 like they are. That is just a fact of life.
It is in this light that I throw up the caution flag for those owners who have an overly aggressive advisor. I see this happen especially where younger entrepreneurs are dealing with a more experienced advisor and the senior person basically forces their point of view in a particular situation. I have recently seen two examples of this – one by a lawyer and one by an insurance advisor. They both created an environment which was intimidating to the business owners – almost making them feel as if they were not qualified to make a decision. They were dealing with issues where the owner had limited experience and the advice almost came across as “I will make this decision as you are not qualified to do so.” They seem to follow the idiom that “in the land of the blind, the one – eyed man is King.”
In both cases, I decide to intervene to get the decision back in the hands of the parties who would bear the consequences – the entrepreneurs. In one case, the advisor’s recommendation was spot on – it was the presentation that caused the confusion. In the second case, the advice was dead wrong and fortunately, it was fixed and the entrepreneur saved a boatload of money.
So, my message to advisors (who probably do not follow me) is simple; please remember what Dirty Harry said and remember your role. To the entrepreneurs, never feel you are not in control of what an advisor suggests because whatever the decision, you are the one who has to live with any consequences. Trust that instinct when you feel you are being pushed and you will do fine.