The adjectives “dependable” and “independent” have more in common than those 6 letters in a row. They also happen to be two of the most important requirements people should insist upon when looking for people to advise them on important issues.

Let’s start with dependable, since it seems more obvious that you would naturally look for that quality in anyone you deal with, especially someone that will be sending you an invoice.

Of course everyone will claim to be dependable, but you will only really know after enough interactions with them. If you have dependable people that you can rely on, hopefully you recognize this quality in them, and appreciate it too, because it seems like it is becoming less common these days.

If you are an advisor, hopefully you recognize how important your dependability is to your clients, because it can take a long time to build up, but with one slip, a whole lot of goodwill can be wiped away very quickly.

Personally, I find it very disappointing when someone upon whom I have relied for many years all of a sudden lets me down. I will usually give anyone a second chance, but eventually you often have to move on. Sometimes I think I might be a little too demanding, but I generally just use the golden rule, I expect others to treat me the way that I would treat them if the roles were reversed.

Let’s move over to the independence question. Why is it important, and what am I getting at? Well I mentioned something about an invoice earlier, and it was not an accident, because it is a big part of what makes an advisor independent.

There are many different business models at play in the world of professional services, and it is easy to become confused or to be misled. I usually prefer to get a bill directly and know what I am paying for, than to eventually learn that the person who gave me the advice got a huge reward that I was not aware of in advance.

Accountants, lawyers, and coaches all work in a relatively straightforward way, we pay them for their time. We might think the bill is too high, but it is usually pretty clear. When financial products are involved, things can get very murky. But we seldom ask the questions that would clarify things for us, because we don’t want to look stupid, or to come across as an a-hole, or make people feel like we don’t trust them.

A good friend of mine who makes his living selling insurance products once told me that he has an advantage over lawyers and accountants in getting to know his clients, because he doesn’t bill them for his time, so they open up more. I had not thought of that, but it makes sense to me.

But I hate to think about those clients and the type of advice they are getting from those advisors who invoice them, if their main criterion is to minimize the size of the bill.

I am not saying that if there is no invoice, they cannot be independent. I am saying that it is important to understand how people are compensated, and to ask questions until you do understand.

Better yet, find a dependable and independent person who understands your situation, and get them to ask the questions for you. They can then help you make sure that you are doing the right things, in the right way, for all the right reasons.

Steve Legler “gets” business families.
He understands the issues that families face, as well as how each family member sees things from their own viewpoint.
He specializes in helping business families navigate the difficult areas where the family and the business overlap, by listening to each person’s concerns and ideas.  He then helps the family work together to bridge gaps by building common goals, based on their shared values and vision.
His background in family business, his experience running his own family office, along with his education and training in coaching, facilitation, and mediation, make him uniquely suited to the role of advising business families and families of wealth.
He is the author of Shift your Family Business (2014), he received his MBA from the Richard  Ivey School of Business (UWO, 1991), is a CFA Charterholder (CFA Institute, 2002), a Family Enterprise Advisor (IFEA 2014), and has received the ACFBA and CFWA accreditations (Family Firm Institute 2014-2015).
He prides himself on his ability to help families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want. To learn how, start by signing up for his monthly newsletter and weekly blogs here.