Steve Jobs on Advisors and Consultants: Not all are created equal

Having started, built and exited my own company, with all the real scar tissue that comes with it, I have since made it a personal mission to continue to develop best practice frameworks, for the benefit of founders I support, particularly in the areas of growth and transactions for medium-sized, private businesses. From working ‘in’ and ‘on’ hundreds of businesses around the world, it’s an ongoing journey and a labour of love.

To use the term, standing on the shoulders of giants, I’ll often drop in, to the thought process, experience and mindset of some of the world’s best, to continue to learn and hone my appreciation of what it takes to start, build and sell a successful business, to add value to the clients I support. One question I repeatedly get asked from business owners is “how do I select or vet an advisor or consultant, to help me with the sale process?”

With such a saturation of so-called advisors, brokers, coaches, experts and theorists in the world, all happy to give you their opinion, it’s a valid question, no?

No doubt, advisors and consultants can play a crucial role in helping businesses thrive and overcome challenges. They offer expert insights, fresh perspectives, and specialised knowledge. However, engaging consultants or brokers without real-life business sale experience can present significant challenges for business owners when it comes to executing a successful business sale. While advisors, brokers and consultants bring valuable expertise to the table, business owners must carefully consider their consultant or broker’s backgrounds and experience, particularly when navigating a critical process like a business sale or acquisition.

For example, has your broker or advisor actually started and sold their own company, with all the scar tissue that comes with that? Or have they simply entered the brokerage or advisory game from another field to follow a cookie cutter ‘theory based’ framework approach. It’s a question worth asking.

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc., was famously known for his visionary leadership & unique perspective on the role of advisors and consultants, particularly those with theoretical experience. His distaste for them can be understood through several key factors:

  • Emphasis on practical experience: Steve Jobs believed in the value of real-world experience over theoretical knowledge. He often emphasised the importance of “learning by doing” and believed that practical experience was more valuable in solving real-world and business problems. For him, advisors and consultants with only theoretical knowledge might lack the hands-on experience necessary to truly understand the challenges faced by a company or its owners. What are your views here?
  • Jobs was known for his strong intuition and visionary thinking. Like many business owners, he had a deep belief in his own ideas and often followed his instincts, even when they contradicted conventional wisdom. He was known to challenge the status quo and push the boundaries of what was thought possible. This approach often led him to reject advice from advisors and consultants who would rely on established theories and best practices, as he preferred to chart his own course.

It’s important to note that while Jobs had a distaste for advisors and consultants with theoretical experience, his leadership style was unique to him and may not be suitable for every business context.

Real-life business sale experience equips advisors and brokers with invaluable insights, credibility, and an understanding of the unique challenges inherent in the process.

For me personally, it’s all about empathy & understanding, for me to truly understand what a business owner needs from me, I liken the experience to an oft spoken quote from the book ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.” or “To walk in another man’s shoes”.

Having started, built, and sold my own firm, I’ve walked around in that skin, combined it with best practice theories and frameworks, to bring as much possible value to a client’s challenges, as I can.

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Written by Matt Trustrum