I am still enjoying a thoughtful afterglow after reading Carol’s book The Entrepreneur Equation and the “extra” content I am talking about is around what you do yourself, what you get others to do, and the economic myth around that.
You could do it – but should you?
The economic myth is that in order for new and fledgling entrepreneurs to keep costs down, they must do everything themselves. This is a very hard road and most likely, a false economy. It is easy to decide that you will get someone else to do what you can’t do; it is much more difficult to decide to invest in getting others to do what think you could do or could learn to do.
In my own case, it was accounting. I am good at math, I like numbers and I like having control over the finances. So, when I set up my new business nearly 20 years ago, I thought the cost of having a good accountant was one that I could easily bypass, at least for a while. It took an issue over VAT for me to realize that having an accountant wasn’t about doing the numbers right, it was about relationships.
Hiring someone’s relationships can pay off
I knew how to argue my case convincingly from an intellectual and factual point of view, but I also knew it would get me nowhere in the maze of the appeals process. So, I hired an accountant and not because I needed his expertise, but because I needed his relationships with the VAT office to get the result I needed. I needed him to act as my intermediary, to convey my case, my needs, and my reliability without the risk of me getting into a bigger mess if it didn’t go according to plan. I also needed someone to test out my novel arguments, someone who was more likely to be trusted and listened to. That was a great insight for me and my business.
I think we often confuse expertise with great relationship skills. These are specific skills in building trust and rapport, challenging assumptions, negotiating and listening, all deployed with independence and confidence.
Emotion kills objectivity
Business leaders and entrepreneurs need these relationship skills more than ever and they need them with a degree of finesse, which is hard to grow effectively for yourself when you have a host of other things to pay attention to in your business. It is even harder to use them when you have a personal, even emotional interest in the outcome. You need a degree of detachment from the consequences of the outcome. If you need something badly, then everything you think of and everything you say will be subjective. Objectivity, on the other hand, is essential for hearing new information, assessing risks, and making good decisions. A third person can provide real value for entrepreneurs. What makes the difference is the independence.
As a commercial mediator, my objectivity enables me to see many missed opportunities in an entrepreneur’s story where they could have preserved, rescued, or restored the relationship long before real damage was done, even if that might have meant a parting of the ways. They could have benefited from a third person to negotiate their contracts or leases, develop partnership agreements, develop supplier relationships, deal with changes, and quite simply, help them make better business decisions.
So next time you have a tricky situation, don’t duck it until it becomes a big problem, find yourself a great third person (often a mediator). It will be worth the investment.
Is there a situation where you could have used a third person? Do you have an example where hiring a third person paid off? Please share it in the comments below!