Are You a Trusted Advisor to Business Owners?

Calling all Lawyers, Accountants, Wealth Managers, and Business Consultants: Are You Missing Out on Big Opportunity?

I was having lunch last week with a group of lawyers. Their firm actually focuses only on business owners. They have a lawyer available if the client needs a will, an estate plan, has a complex tax problem, a sticky situation with employees, a divorce pending, shareholder agreements needing re-negotiation, corporate record book renewal and all manner of agreements, shares, options and of course law suits.

But they were missing a critical service that could net them millions in additional revenue. I wondered how aware they were of this opportunity.

This firm likes to think of themselves as a one-stop shop for whatever their business owner client needs.

“Impressive.” I said. “You’ve almost got the lifecycle of the business owner sewn up. End to almost end marketing.”

Four pairs of eyes locked on the fork that just went into my mouth.

“Almost?” I heard an echo from three of the lawyers seated around me.

“You think we’re missing something?” He looked a bit defensive as he waited for me to finish chewing.

I swallowed while I considered how to approach the question and the defensive tone of voice. I didn’t want to be seen as a “know it all”. I just wanted to deliver a heads up.

Here’s the Heads Up

“Whether you’re missing something or you want to add a key ingredient to your practice is of course up to you. I think you have an opportunity.” I saw the faces around me relax. I carried on. “I’m impressed because I think many lawyers have been locked away in ‘silo’ based practices rather than ‘customer-focused’ need based practices like you are. Your firm is way ahead of the pack in being seen as a ‘go-to’ firm. That’s essential if you want to stand out from the crowd.”

Beaming smiles and nods all around. “That’s what we wanted to achieve. I think we’ve done it!”

“If you really want to deliver true end-to-end value to your client base, then you need to be having a difficult conversation with them. It would sound something like this.

‘I know you have a successful business. You probably want a return on your investment one day, right? Well I have bad news and good news. Your business as it currently stands is probably unsaleable… yes, unsaleable despite the fact it is successful for you. 90% of business owners are failing to find a buyer and get a deal closed right now. Do you want to change this situation? Because the alternative is that you will have to close the company one day rather than getting a return on your investment.’ I paused to let this information soak in. ‘The good news is that saleable companies are in huge demand. Having a saleable company is like holding a winning lottery ticket'”

I could see the lawyers were imagining themselves having this conversation with a client. There was a collective sigh. The sound of chairs scraping over hardwood followed.

“Do you know how much additional legal work is involved in making a business saleable?” I asked. “How many business owner clients do you have on the books that are over 55?”

The senior partner took a guess. “About 2500 that we are the attorney of record for.”

“So, how much growth do you want? If you learned how to have that conversation with your clients, your fees would grow substantially, without having to acquire any new clients. Isn’t that your goal with end to end services?

The Opportunity is Wide Open

The lawyers started to nod. “Right. Excellent point. I guess we’ll have to find time to have a marketing seminar or something to break this news to them. You could do that right? Come speak to our clients?”

“Of course.” Everyone nodded.

Then I asked them a question and the answer floored me. “So, which one of you would be in charge of setting up this seminar as a project so you know it will happen?”

They looked at each other. Then hands started waving and heads started shaking. “Not with my case load. I can’t take this on. I mean I know we should… but I don’t think any of us have time.”

I nodded. Then I concluded our lunch by saying, “I don’t think your clients have much time either. It takes 2-4 years to make a company saleable and the clock started ticking quite some time ago. Whose responsibility should it be to alert your clients?”

What Kind of Trusted Advisor Do You Want Your Firm to Become Known For?

And this is the type of conversation accountants need to have, wealth managers need to have, business consultants need to have, with the 2.8 million boomer-aged business owners who have no idea that they have work to do to get a return on their investment.

Based on our anecdotal research, advisors don’t know their role in alerting business owners. Nor do they foresee this dire set of circumstances is going to affect their own practices either. Change is required.

What’s your firm going to do – be part of the problem or part of the solution? Let me know your plans by leaving a comment below.

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