First, a big fat disclaimer: I make my living by helping small business owners see the operations of their businesses clearly and objectively. So I am not a disinterested observer on the topic of why business owners need independent advisors.
That said, let me make the case. Business owners are not objective about their companies, or about their skills and abilities as managers. No one is objective in matters involving themselves.
Human nature has endowed all of us with the ability to deceive ourselves about our skills, attributes, and talents. We can thank our cavemen ancestors for this behavioral inheritance.
Imagine your distant ancestor, Thor, setting out to hunt a yak to feed his family, thousands of years ago. Any fair assessment of the situation would suggest that the odds of the yak bagging Thor for dinner far exceed Thor’s chances of success. Only by deceiving himself regarding his ability, can Thor in fact be successful in his mission.
While Thor’s present day descendants can safely feed their families by simple trips to Whole Foods, they are saddled with the inability to be objective in matters of self-assessment.
Publicly traded companies have required structures of corporate governance, including boards of directors and oversight by regulatory agencies. Well-functioning systems of corporate governance, with strong internal controls, provide a check on executive bias. But small businesses only rarely have boards of directors, and when they do, board members serve more as friendly advisors than dispensers of objective views.
Surveys indicate that CPAs, wealth advisors, and lawyers are the small business person’s most trusted advisors. However, rarely do those professionals become deeply involved with owners on an ongoing basis regarding matters that involve the day-to-day operations of the business.
Many business owners find themselves struggling with one aspect or another of their business. For some, it is lack of sales growth. For others, it might be inability to provide a satisfactory level of customer service. Other companies may have delighted customers, and experience rapid growth, but struggle with inadequate capital and cash flow problems.
Whatever the issue, it is incumbent upon owners to get to the root cause of whatever is causing the problem. This often requires a deep dig, and always requires a high degree of objective assessment. And this is where an independent, objective business advisor or coach can be valuable.
Objectivity is also needed after the root cause of business problems are discovered. Because of human nature and biases, owners will often shy away from taking the tough steps that are sometimes required to fix the problems they discover. Especially if that involves conflict-causing problems with family members or favorite employees. Here, too, an objective advisor can help assure execution of the remediation plan to remove obstacles to business health.
Business coaches come in all flavors and varieties. Some help with time management and communication skills. Other assist with developing leadership talent. And others yet guide owners to find and fix business problems. But good coaches all have one thing in common: bringing an objective viewpoint, helping the owner do something human nature prevents them from doing – which is seeing the situation like it really is.
About the author: Bob Greisman is a business growth advisor and coach with Integrated Growth Advisors, LLC. He also speaks and writes on business-decision making and execution. Bob may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to read Bob’s bio for more information.