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Goering Center news

New year, new you

By Todd Wilkowski

It’s hard to believe that two months of 2020 are in the books! How are you doing on your personal and professional goals and resolutions for 2020? Is your business on track to achieve or exceed its 2020 objectives, especially regarding profitability? What impediments to success or growth opportunities have you identified and what are you going to do to overcome them?

While we often focus our efforts on identifying the internal constraints and impediments in our business, when we are in continual growth mode, the constraints and impediments may potentially be largely external.

To scale your business for continued profitable growth, you likely have continued to hire and upgrade your work force, technology and equipment since you started or purchased your business. How about your outside trusted advisors that you either started with or inherited during a business succession or purchase? Have you made any changes to this advisory team? While loyalty is understandably important, especially bonds and relationships forged through successful or challenging years, and change is hard, if you’ve experienced significant growth, there is the strong possibility that you’ve outgrown these advisors. Particularly, your company’s current challenges and opportunities may exceed their capabilities to serve and advise your business now, and in the future, and this may either be impeding your growth or resulting in lost opportunities.

Here are some items to evaluate:

  1. You hopefully have a business succession plan/exit strategy (or have prioritized putting one in place this year). Are any of your advisors close to retirement? If so, do they have an acceptable succession plan in place for serving your business that they have communicated to you? If so, how strong is your relationship and are you confident in their identified successors’ ability to serve you consistently with value-added advice and resources?
  2. Is your advisor taking much longer to get back to you (if they get back to you at all) and is their service becoming less value-add because they appear to be “learning on your dime?” Or are they unable to provide solutions to your problems and/or consistently referring issues or questions out to other providers whom you don’t have a relationship with and don’t know your business? Who is managing those new service provider relationships and are you sometimes finding that you are getting contradictory advice, advice that undercuts advice from other advisors or advice that actually creates three new problems while solving one (think “whack a mole” for business)?
  3. How much time is your advisor regularly investing with you and your leadership team in building a strong relationship to understand your business and provide you proactive and strategic advice based on trends or emerging issues in your business? Or are they merely reacting when you finally decide to call them?
  4. Has the footprint of your business expanded? Can your advisor provide services or “boots on the ground” in those new geographical areas to assist in crisis or fast-moving situations?
  5. Is your advisor devoid of any new ideas or advice on how to profitably grow your business? Is your advisor regularly telling you “No, you can’t do that” without advising you how you can accomplish your goals? Instead, is your advisor regularly asking you “where do you want to go/achieve” and giving you options on how to get there?
  6. Is your advisor connecting you with other resources and potential clients to help you build your business? Does your advisor spend time developing meaningful time with these entities to help make meaningful and fruitful introductions for you and your company?
  7. Is your advisor so “risk adverse” that he/she consistently proposes unrealistic and unworkable solutions that effectively “wrap you in bubble wrap” versus helping you achieve your growth goals? How well does your advisor understand your company’s particular risk appetite and is proposing solutions that are customized and immediately applicable for your business in achieving its growth goals?

Based on your responses to some or all these questions, it may be time to make a change as this could be hampering your company’s success and continued growth. Yes, change is hard, especially considering the time it takes to build certain relationships. But for the sake of your company, 2020 might be the time to get introspective on this issue and begin making a move. Your company’s employees and owners are counting on you to make these types of courageous decisions for their benefit and the company’s long-term success.

Todd Wilkowski is partner at Frost Brown Todd, LLC. Reach Todd at 513-870-8241 or by email at twilkowski@fbtlaw.com.

About the Goering Center for Family & Private Business
Established in 1989, the Goering Center serves more than 400 member companies, making it North America’s largest university-based educational non-profit center for family and private businesses. The Center’s mission is to nurture and educate family and private businesses to drive a vibrant economy. Affiliation with the Carl H. Lindner College of Business at the University of Cincinnati provides access to a vast resource of business programing and expertise. Goering Center members receive real-world insights that enlighten, strengthen and prolong family and private business success. For more information on the Center, participation and membership visit goering.uc.edu.