How to get the best from your business advisers

How to get the best from your business advisers

It’s hard to know exactly what you want out of a business adviser if you have never had one before. It’s an important decision and often a big commitment from both sides, so it needs to be right from the beginning.

The right advisers for you will gain a good understanding of your business quickly and provide wisdom and a line of enquiry that helps you to find a clear, positive route forwards. They should be willing and able (and, importantly, enabled by you) to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty in order to support you.

So here’s a quick, although not exhaustive, guide to choosing an adviser and how best to conduct the relationship

1   Take time to identify areas you need to bolster in order to choose the right business adviser. They will positively impact your time and energy as well as the future success of your company.

2   If you have an idea of where you want to be in the next couple of years (raise investment, expand abroad, exit, etc.) then make sure your adviser can draw on the experiences of a similar journey.

3   Remember that mistakes and failures, as well as successes, make for the best advice. All that glisters, may not be gold…

4   Chemistry counts, but you need more than just an echo chamber. A forum to have your ideas discussed and challenged will serve you much better.

5   Understand that the commitment in the relationship is mutual. You should provide all necessary information (particularly the dark secrets!) and your adviser has a duty to do their homework about your business/sector and not just talk in general terms.

6   From one meeting to the next your advisers should be abreast of what is happening. They should prepare well for the meeting and follow up swiftly afterwards. You shouldn’t need to waste time recapping events every time you meet.

7   Make sure that you and your team are also preparing for meetings/calls well in advance and that key information is supplied to your adviser well in advance where possible or is easily available.

8   You should not walk away from meetings with your adviser feeling that your workload has doubled. New actions will arise but tasks should be re-prioritised and/or delegated. Perhaps they can even take something off your plate!

9   Don’t be afraid to ask for more from your adviser. It’s a two way, grown-up conversation and above all you should get what you need out of the relationship.

10  Even the best advisers won’t have all the answers but they should be able to lean on their network to help you find a solution.

11  If they discuss a concept which is new to you, ask for specifics relevant to your business. And, likewise, be willing to expand on industry/relationship/historical specifics (and acronyms!) when asked.

12  Don’t simply take their word for it. If you are not sure about a proposed direction ask for evidence and examples. Get from theory to actionable as fast as possible.

13  You should see the value of working with an adviser immediately (probably in your very first conversation) and the positive impacts on your business well within three months of engagement.

14  Despite your best efforts of pre-qualifying an adviser, you can’t always get it right. If it’s not working, its not working – part company professionally but swiftly and use the experience to hone your requirements.

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