Everyone has heard the one about the tree that falls in the forest with nobody around to hear it. Does it make a sound? Probably. Does it make a difference whether it makes a sound or not? Not really.
But what about a person who has ideas about what they think they should do, but doesn’t have an impartial, knowledgeable resource to bounce these ideas off?
Surely they would like to make sounds by talking to a trusted advisor, who would hear their ideas and provide arguments for and against their plan, as an unbiased person who is not billing them by the tenth of an hour, or a yes-man just trying to keep his job.
An ideal sounding board has a combination of qualities that are not always easy to find in one person. And someone who might be a good sounding board in one situation may be a bad fit in another. So finding the right match is even more difficult.
A person who has successfully run their own business for many years must be good at dealing with all sorts of people, on a variety of subjects, and in many different situations. But it can be a lonely job.
This is why groups like the Young Presidents Organization and Canadian Association of Family Enterprise have had some success. They are a place where these company leaders can exchange with others who operate at their high level.
But these relationships also have their limits, since these contacts may not relate well to your industry or there may even be competitive reasons not to exchange too much information.
While running a company, most CEO’s will develop a good rapport with their CFO, since they are involved in so many important decisions. Or in a family business, the founder may develop a great working relationship with one or more of their children who they are grooming to one day replace them. Unfortunately, these kinds of relationships do not always survive a business transition.
One problem that we have seen on numerous occasions is with business owners who have sold some, most, or all of their operating businesses. Once they get over the divestiture, they are now in a new and different realm, and they are not always sure to whom they should turn.
Selling a business rids you of a whole slew of problems and worries, but it also creates new situations and new realities that need to be dealt with. As I have heard it put nicely, someone who is comfortable running a $25 million company, may not be as comfortable managing $25 million of proceeds after the sale.
So what does a sounding board sound like? It probably says things like this: “are you sure that you want to go in that directions?, “have you thought about doing it like this?” , “okay, sounds pretty good, but what about ____ ?”, “let me talk to someone I know who has done something similar so I can get some ideas about how to go about it”.
People who are good sounding boards are not necessarily easy to find, but they do exist. You just have to know where to look. We would be happy to discuss this subject with those seeking this kind of resource, so we can get started on the most important component in such a relationship: trust.
Once you have a trusted advisor (or two) to use as a sounding board, you will not want to give them up.