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Remove the Blinders: The Value of Collaboration Amongst Trusted Advisors in Succession Planning

By Joe Liggett

If you have seen a horse wearing blinders, you may be wondering why some horses wear them and others don’t? Well, a horse’s vision influences their behavior. In the wild, horses are a prey animal. Their keen ability to watch out for predators comes the placement of their eyes – instead of being positioned at the front of their head, as with humans, horse’s eyes are on the sides of their head. This results in a very wide field of vision – about 350 degrees. However, a horse is unable to see what is directly in front of, and directly behind them. The purpose of blinders is to lessen the horse’s field of vision and force them to focus on what’s in front of them.

Human behavior, much like the human eye, can have a much narrower field of vision. This is especially prevalent for professions known as “Trusted Advisors”. While there are benefits to this, such as the ability to become an expert in one particular field or having a heightened focus on the task at hand, this frequently results in a siloed approach that does not properly serve the very client that has come to trust the advisor.

 What is a Trusted Advisor, and Why Should They Collaborate?

Trusted Advisors are professionals, most commonly attorneys, accountants, financial advisors, and business advisors, who have reached an extremely high level of experience, expertise, and respect for their advisory to clients. These advisors are expected to go beyond just “doing the work” by putting in extra miles of effort to ensure their clients are properly guided, protected, and served.

Trusted Advisors focus on a particular specialty, and rarely intermingle with a client’s other advisors. This ensures that they guide the client down a path with services that they are able to provide (and directly benefit from). However, this siloed approach underserves the client because it does not take into account what is or might be best for them. For instance, a CPA might not know all of the various exit strategies for a business owner client and decide to recommend a solution which they can structure, without seeking expert guidance in other strategies that may bring about a better result. In this case, collaborating with a succession planning specialist would not only serve the client best, but would surely strengthen the relationship with the client due to the ideal outcome achieved. By keeping a client close to the chest, Trusted Advisors run the risk of losing the “trusted” tag, which, once broken, will never return to its original form.

Leveraging the knowledge and expertise of a client’s other Trusted Advisors allows for solutions that are more likely to check all the boxes. It also ensures that every advisor is able to provide their specific services throughout the process. Properly serving a client is almost impossible without collaborating with other advisors to ensure that all sides are rowing in the same direction towards an agreed upon strategy.

Becoming a Top Trusted Advisor

Top Trusted Advisors are not only trusted and respected by their clients, but they are also respected by their peers as well. They have a track record of highly successful outcomes for clients, often due to an understanding of the benefits found in cross-advisor collaboration. To become a Top Trusted Advisor, you must invite all the client’s advisors into the process when applicable, to ensure that the solution is cohesive with one primary goal: to best serve the client.

James Cash Penney, founder of JC Penney in 1902, once said, “The best teamwork comes from people who are working independently toward one goal in unison.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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