Why bother with professional advisers?

Having recently been asked to help someone to choose a professional services advisor – it made me think - what is it this person really needs and how do I help them to find the right person.

As a previous Partner in a Big 4, had I been talking to a business owner about the virtues of using a professional advisor, no doubt I may have concentrated on hard reasons, such as:

  1. They have the time
  2. They have the ‘know how’ and have trial and errored their way up the learning curve

But what I have learned having jumped to the other side of the fence spending the past 6 years acting as a Principal has shaped my opinion somewhat.

For example, I have 25+ years of deal experience under my belt but does that mean I am automatically the right person to deliver a transaction for my business. Or, would extra capacity and insight benefit the process.  Lesson number 1 - just because you can doesn’t always mean you should.

Secondly, I have discovered on more than one occasion that advice can come from unexpected sources so be open minded about who you approach.

This has helped me to understand that the real value of using an advisor often lies in the soft reasons.

All transactions have an emotional and psychological element. Financial results are merely the numerical articulation of past, present and future behaviours. The hidden experience brings intuition, style and acumen into play.  A good deal isn’t just good for you. It’s good for both buyer and seller, your staff and your customers….and you.

A good adviser seamlessly becomes your team, you understand each other and how you want to ‘be’ in business. They also bring a network of everything else – legal teams, funders better suited to you and fundamentally, impartial advice.


So how do you choose the adviser that is right for you?

Clearly credentials are an obvious requirement but the reality is, they are only a hygiene factor.

Reputation and references take you a step further.

However, ultimately you are looking for a relationship built on trust.  Indeed, the level of trust you have with your adviser is the greatest determinant of success.  

A good advisor should be exploring the motivations behind your decision making and testing your thought process.  Therefore, it’s important to think about the type of person you enjoy working with and how well you take on board ideas and opinions yourself.

My experience is that common ground builds bonds and with some luck you are forging a longer-term friendship that may even bring some fun into the process along the way!

Certainly, during the past 6 years I can honestly say that I have been fortunate enough to have received advice from some of the best. Having a familiar-faced sounding board has helped not only with difficult decisions but also with simply pointing out the obvious.  And the best advisors seamlessly appear to have been there when I needed them without being hung up on regulation and formality and sometimes without even a fee in it for themselves.

So, finally, I would recommend that you stay in touch with your advisors, wherever you are on the growth journey as the strength of your network - professional or otherwise – will stand you in good stead for your entire career.

John Hughes is Chairman of Cortus Advisory Group