All of us business owners and managers know the value of having an external, objective opinion, don’t we? But we seldom pay attention to it.
This is true of professional business advisor, as it is of every business manager out there.
All too often we think we are immune in our element, but then we get bought up short by the outside view. There I was the other day happily working full steam ahead knowing my subject, when I’m asked why are you doing that? The activity is unimportant, the effect is. The first reaction is ‘it’s obvious, what an annoying question’. But then you realise as you try to answer it, that the question is actually what is the purpose of doing ‘that ‘and what will you gain from doing it? It becomes more difficult as you try to articulate the justification. You either brush it aside or see the opportunity for an external view. Which would you do?
The view from the outside gets many different names or guises,
- Business Review
- Sounding board
- Non exec
- Mate down the pub
This external review can be either formal or informal and is sometimes unsolicited, which was the impetus for writing this.
Whatever form it takes it should make you stand back and explain to someone outside the business what you are doing, and why you are doing it.
This is not a one way monologue but a two way conversation. The external opinion will undoubtedly come from asking questions, some easy some difficult, and maybe empathise or sympathise. This not only takes the emotion out of it, but it forces clarity into the explanation.
The best result is if you are asked open, smart questions that force you to stop and think, to clarify what the issue is, to analyse the situation. And that’s the point, if it is effective you have to stop and assemble your thoughts.
It is seldom the external view that provides the ‘answer’ but the act of asking will help you sort through all the possible answers so you will see what matters.
When we are working day to day in the business we seldom make time for this analysis, there is always the next item on the ‘to do’ list or the next interruption and despite the good intentions, we seldom work on the business.
As advisors, we are trained to question, probe, challenge to get our clients to stand back and then we listen, we listen for the key conclusions, the major items that point to the best direction of travel for you. And that’s an important point, the external view is not to provide the ‘correct answer’ but the ‘right way’ for you. There is seldom a correct or right way that is universally true but there is always a best way for each of us and they might all be different. That’s what the external view delivers an individually tuned, unique clarity and direction.
For many Businesses any review would start with a formal process. This will provide an objective assessment, yet it is just the start, reviewing the conclusion with someone outside the business is where the real gain will be delivered.
Posted by Chris Ball