Surprise, you’re not the smartest person in the room
The first years of Bill Clinton’s presidency were marked by stumble after stumble in terms of strategy and execution of the new president’s agenda.
Being Governor of Arkansas is one thing, while being president of the United States is something very different.
It was only after a team of experienced political professionals came to the White House to assist the new president that things turned around.
Bill Clinton was wise to search out and find people who had “been there and done that” because those individuals guided him to being the first Democratic president to be reelected since FDR.
If you think its déjà vu in the Trump White House, regarding the failure to execute and other foul-ups, I agree.
From these mishaps comes a key lesson for every business owner, CEO and entrepreneur.
At some point you will outgrow the advisors that helped you get where you are today. You will need to find new ones to help you personally and professionally move your company to the next level.
Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, along will millions of business leaders have discovered hard truth: despite your firm conviction to the contrary, you are not the smartest person in the room.
A historical example: On the night of April 14, 1912, the captain of Titanic had a single advisor on board, the ship’s chief builder. Captain Smith could not turn to anyone else to ask for advice in an emergency.
Perhaps one reason he did not think he needed advice was because in all the years he had been at sea, he had never had a genuine need to seek counsel.
He didn’t know what he didn’t know, and didn’t think he needed to learn, what eventually cost the lives of over 1,500 passengers and crew.
Set aside ego; even if you have been doing what you’ve been doing for many years, and doing it quite successfully, you still need the wisdom and perspective in subjects and matters that you do not possess.
Captain Smith had sailed the oceans of the world for more than four decades and still ran into a very avoidable disaster.
You need advisors because there are areas of business management that you cannot possibly know enough about to do even a passable job.
Which raises the key question: Once you know you need tactical advice to lead your business, where do you find it?
Retain a tax professional who also serves as a financial advisor throughout the year. If the only time you see or hear from this individual is during tax season, change advisors.
You need a business attorney to provide input on legal matters, specifically contracts. If you need specialized legal help do deal with a personnel matter or when buying a building or land, this attorney may serve as general counsel.
A commercial and property insurance agent can protect your assets and reduce risk.
A banker will deepen your understanding of and management of cash flow and capital availability.
A health benefits insurance provider can provide knowledge in that challenging and ever-changing area.
More strategic leadership advice will come from fellow owners, CEOs and entrepreneurs.
I facilitate advisory boards for small and midsize business owners. These groups of peers meet regularly to provide perspective and accountability to each other. One of the best things that can be said about an Advisory Board is that the people in the room are committed to their peers’ success.
That’s something a leader will rarely come across; people who can provide the wisdom and experience to prevent costly mistakes and reduce or eliminate risks.
Used properly, an advisory board can be invaluable. However, those who participate have to be open to hearing opinions they might not agree with. Advice given does not have to be followed, but should always be considered.
Participants have to be open to sharing the good, the bad and the ugly about their business. Why do successful individuals participate? In a single word: perspective.
The difference between technical advisors and those with a more strategic view point is one of ownership. Owners think differently than employees, and many tactical technical advisors to businesses are employees.
While it doesn’t mean they don’t provide great advice, it does mean they don’t have skin in the game.
On the bridge of the Titanic that cold April night, if the Captain had the right advisors around him, not only might he have avoided the crisis, he would have been much better prepared for what happened when the crisis arrived.
That he did not have the right advisors speaks to his arrogance, isolation and perceived invincibility. Captain Smith died along with 1,516 others.