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Not all advisors & consultants are created equal


Not all advisors & consultants are created equal

By , August 4, 2023
advisers and consultants

‘Steve Jobs perspective on advisors & consultants, not all are created equal’.

Having started, built & exited my own company, with all the real scar tissue that comes with it, I have since made it a personal mission to continue to develop best practice frameworks, for the benefit of founders I support, particularly in the areas of Growth & Exit for Mid Market business. From working ‘in’ & ‘on’ hundreds of business around the world, its an ongoing journey & a labor of love.

To use the term, standing on the shoulders of giants, I’ll often drop in, to the thought process, experience and mindset of some of the worlds best, to continue to learn & hone my appreciation of what it takes to start, build & exit a successful business, to add value to the clients I support. One question I repeatedly get asked from business owners is “how do I select or vet an advisor or consultant, to help me with the exit process?”

With such a saturation of so called advisors, coaches, experts & theorists in the world, all happy to give you their opinion, it’s a valid question, no?

No doubt, Advisors & Consultants can play a crucial role in helping businesses thrive and overcome challenges. They offer expert insights, fresh perspectives, and specialized knowledge. However, engaging consultants without real-life exit experience can present significant challenges for business owners. While advisors & consultants bring valuable expertise to the table, business owners must carefully consider their consultants’ backgrounds and experience, particularly when navigating a critical process like an exit.

For example, has your Exit advisor actually started and sold their own company, with all the scar tissue that comes with that? Or have they simply entered Exit advisory from another field to follow a cookie cutter ‘theory based’ framework approach, it’s a question worth asking.

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc., was famously known for his visionary leadership & unique perspective on the role of advisors and consultants, particularly those with theoretical experience. His distaste for them can be understood through several key factors:

Emphasis on Practical Experience: Steve Jobs believed in the value of real-world experience over theoretical knowledge. He often emphasized the importance of “learning by doing” and believed that practical experience was more valuable in solving real-world & business problems.. For him, advisors and consultants with only theoretical knowledge might lack the hands-on experience necessary to truly understand the challenges faced by a company or its owners. What are your views here?

Jobs was known for his strong intuition and visionary thinking. Like many business owners, he had a deep belief in his own ideas and often followed his instincts, even when they contradicted conventional wisdom. He was known to challenge the status quo and push the boundaries of what was thought possible. This approach often lead him to reject advice from advisors & consultants who would rely on established theories and best practices, as he preferred to chart his own course. Do you feel the same, as an Entrepreneur I would hazard a guess, you may feel the same way?

It’s important to note that while Jobs had a distaste for advisors and consultants with theoretical experience, his leadership style was unique to him and may not be suitable for every business context.

In this article, I will explore & list some of the potential pitfalls of relying on consultants lacking firsthand exit
experience eg been there, seen it, done it.

Limited Understanding of the Exit Process. Consultants without practical exit experience might possess theoretical knowledge, but they may lack the depth of understanding that comes from navigating actual exit scenarios. Successfully selling or transitioning a business requires intricate knowledge of market dynamics, negotiation strategies, and legal complexities. Without real-life exposure to these challenges, consultants may struggle to provide accurate advice and create effective exit strategies.

Inability to Anticipate Roadblocks. Real-life exit experiences enable consultants to anticipate common roadblocks and challenges that arise during the process. These hurdles could include unforeseen legal issues, valuation discrepancies, or potential buyer objections. Without having navigated such hurdles firsthand, consultants may be ill-prepared to help business owners address these obstacles effectively, potentially leading to delays or costly mistakes.

Lack of Credibility with Stakeholders. Stakeholders, including potential buyers, investors, and legal advisors, often seek reassurance from experienced consultants during the exit process. A consultant with a track record of successful exits adds credibility to the negotiation table, enhancing the business owner’s position. In contrast, a consultant lacking real-life exit experience may struggle to gain the trust and confidence of all parties involved, potentially hindering the success of the exit strategy.

Unrealistic Valuation and Expectations. Accurate business valuation is critical during the exit process, as it directly impacts the final sale price. Consultants without real-life exit experience might rely on standard valuation models without considering the nuances specific to the business and its industry. This can lead to unrealistic expectations for the business owner and potential buyers, derailing the exit negotiations.

In conclusion, while advisors & consultants bring valuable expertise to the table, business owners must carefully consider their consultants’ backgrounds and experience, particularly when navigating a critical process like an exit.

Real-life exit experience equips consultants with invaluable insights, credibility, and an understanding of the unique challenges inherent in the process.

By choosing consultants with proven exit experience, business owners can enhance their chances of a successful and profitable exit strategy.

For me personally, its all about empathy & understanding, for me to truly understand what a business owner needs from me, I liken the experience to a oft spoken quote from the book ‘to kill a mockingbird’.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.” or “To walk in anothers mans shoes”.

Having started, built and sold my own firm, I’ve walked around in that skin, combined it with best practice theories and frameworks, to bring as much possible value to a clients challenges, as I can.

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Matt Trustrum

Matt Trustrum

Partner - NSW

Matt has spent over 25 years in the international business, corporate, SME & Start Up arena, having worked with, coached & advised, hundreds of business owners around the world, from growth to exit. Having began his career in London’s financial markets operating across the UK & Europe, he relocated to Australia in 2003 to start his own firm, which he sold 7 years later, an award-winning FinTech consulting business operating across the Asia Pacific region, featuring in the BRW’s Top 100, fast growing companies list. Post sale of his company and with a new passion for advising founders on growth, sales, talent and exit strategies, he spent 5 years travelling the world working on and in, a variety of international business’ to observe different business models & upskill his knowledge base. This work has also included periods consulting to early stage investment firms, business think tanks, incubators & government entities, including the Federal Government’s national flagship business initiative, the Entrepreneurs Program. Matt’s first hand experience of starting, building & successfully exiting his own company, combined with his extensive knowledge and expertise of working ‘on’ and ‘in’ a wide variety of enterprises equips him to provide quality, relevant and invaluable advice for any business owner.