Advisors are like cave people. They are simple creatures. They are either protectors or hunters. The problem is that, much like at the dawn of civilisation, old cave people are considered more successful. After all, they have been around for longer. This is a bit of truism, they have been around longer, so people trust them, which in turn leads to their success. This spell doesn’t last forever. Eventually the client sees the advisor for who he actually is. This is the great leveler, the outcome.
So what type of cave person am I? What type is Tom? My answer would be that it depends. Tom has great relationships with everyone, I am jealous of that. People believe in him and his dependability. He is known for being a rock and indeed he is mine. He is so relentlessly and patiently professional that he wears down obstacles like the ocean erodes stone. He wins through unbreakable will. He hunts by protecting. Me? I am the opposite. My strength is really in strategy. Sure, I am technical, but what I am really good at is designing the battlefield. Meticulously controlling the landscape and imposing my will on what I want to change. I burn with the heat of a billion suns for the briefest of seconds. I protect by hunting.
Clients and Regulators
One of the focuses of professionals in some way shape or form is protecting their clients from regulators. We are your blockers, we are the pointy end of your spear putting forward your interests. But we have a competing obligation. One to the community. Through honest conduct and integrity, we lift the standards of everyone around us.
Some clients don’t understand this obligation to the community. They ask us to do things we are not comfortable doing, they ask us to serve them by debasing ourselves. All young professionals have run into clients that their partner has accepted that have this mentality to a greater or lesser extent.
This month, like Gandalf the Grey, I was tested by a former client. I anticipated the challenge to my professional integrity and I firmly and calmly (I know! I was surprised too) dealt with the issue. I don’t think I have ever had the power to decline to engage, to refuse to serve. Call me Gandalf the White! (if you don’t get the reference, congratulations your social life is better than mine).
The Ugly Truth
The ugly side of professional advice is how professionals choose to compete. Some do this by relinquishing the duties they are supposed to adhere too. I know I sound like a preacher, but values are important to me. I trust who I trust because I know they don’t compromise their values, that that isn’t who they are.
I hate the transactional nature with which some professionals act. I was taught by my mother before becoming an advisor to be generous with my time and my skills. The only difference is that I need to get better at judging who I want to be generous with and who I don’t. In that way Tom and I both have patience, we know it takes time to build trust.
I have always walked my own path, sometimes it is a stupid out of the way and overly long path (my sense of direction isn’t fantastic). Having said this, I am not scared if my model is different, if I don’t look the same or sound the same as other professionals. Sometimes the long path teaches you more and makes you better.
Big Things on the Horizon
My default setting is to trust people. I went into public accounting because of the “public” not the “accounting”. I had to work like a dog to be even passable at the skills necessary to survive in a practice. But I never had to work hard to love my clients. the public is what sustains you, the accounting is for computers.
I feel like this month was closing out the calendar year with so much change. So much growth. Proving to myself that I can be my own man. But I can’t help but feel we haven’t even really gotten started and that we have some massive changes on the horizon.
Watch this space.