Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Best Question I Have Been Asked in a Long Time

As many of you know, the past 5 to 6 weeks of newsletters have been filled with important coaching information to provide assistance with growing your business in this troubled economy. The significance of these newsletters comes in the ability to impact you at a level that is meaningful and keeps you focused on moving your business forward.

I want to continue that trend today by sharing with you the answer to the best question that I have been asked in a long time - "What have I learned as an entrepreneur that I wish I knew a long time ago?"

The insightful interviewer who asked me this question gave me an opportunity to drive the point home in my own mind. As I spoke to him with true conviction, I realized how strongly I believed the words that I was speaking. What I told the interviewer was - What I wish I knew long ago is that business is about understanding the power behind the concept of 'giving' instead of 'getting' in every business endeavor.

I followed up that statement with some immediate details so as not to sound too charitable or too soft in my approach to business. I elaborated on the fact that, for many years, I approached business with the idea that if I 'got' something - i.e. a law degree, a master's degree, a CFP designation, and so on, that I would be better qualified to go into the marketplace to 'get' what I wanted - success in business. Looking back on the hours that I spent 'getting' those things I realize that my mindset was driven by the wrong intentions. Once I learned that I would be paid for the value of what I 'gave' to the marketplace, then I would truly be on my way to success. Let me explain further.

I speak to and coach many advisors who are wondering, in this environment, how they are going to 'get' the business that they need in these market conditions. I've been in that place for many, many years. It is a place that says I need to work more hours, call more people, better utilize my resources, and stretch each dollar to make it more efficient to my end goal - 'getting' the business that I need.

I too followed only this path for a long time. And, when I achieved some success, what did I do? I attributed it to my hard work, dedication, determination, etc. . . and went right back to that mindset thinking Great, let me now go 'get' the next one. But those wins were hard-fought and required constant maintenance and the mindset was actually making my job and life much more difficult than it needed to be.

The greatest lesson that I have learned in my entrepreneurial career therefore was how to change that mindset and begin the day with a different question - What do I have to give to my clients, prospects, business owners, and coaching students today? I began to see business from a different perspective . . . from the client's perspective. What did this person value in our relationship? Why did they choose to do business with me? Was it because I am an attorney? Was it because I had certain designations? Partly 'yes' - that helped establish a threshold of competence that permitted the conversation to commence at a professional level. However, the reasoning was far from complete.

What the client wanted was their problem solved. What I had to give them was a solution. What I had to give them was peace of mind. What I had to give them was my time and ability to communicate with them in a manner that they valued because it reinforced that solution and peace of mind.

Does this sound too esoteric? Does it sound like a soft way of doing business?

Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I am a bit of the first, and very little of the second. I construct boundaries and conditions with whom and in what manner I conduct my business. I do this because I reserve my energy for those who are ready to accept what I have come to understand what I have to give . . . and I generally take a pass on the rest. I don't spend my days trying to 'get'. I spend my days trying to identify those to whom I can creatively deliver the solutions that I have to provide. And, since I know the value of what I have to 'give', I charge accordingly (although I do provide quite a bit of information - i.e. this newsletter - without charging - but I still 'get' something far more important than money - more on this later).

'Getting' therefore begins from a place of weakness. It begins from a place of asking yourself What more do I have to do to 'get' this client, contract, account paperwork signed, etc. . . The barriers break down, the client controls the relationship (because they only value you for what you are willing to compromise - mostly in price - to get you to work for them) and, at the same time that you 'get' what you thought you were looking for, you plant the seeds for potentially getting something worse. That is why people often say that you want to be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

So 'giving' is about making yourself available to do business a certain way. It is a far more powerful way to go into a prospective engagement.

And, to avoid being too esoteric, let me relate this to exit strategy planning and making money. Ask yourself, Are you trying to simply 'get' the next business owner to meet with you and engage your exit strategy planning services? Is that the mindset that you carry with you into that meeting? Or, are you truly listening to this business owner's concerns and realizing that you are the only person on the planet who can 'give' them what they need - predictability and direction around this niched, specialty practice area - exit strategy planning.

When you truly understand the value of what you bring to a relationship and when you know that you carry the solutions that can free this person from their current problem, then you too will have arrived at the place that changed the way that I currently [try to] do most of my business (after all, we all sometimes slip into old habits that can be hard to break) You will know that 'giving' to these business owners in need is far more powerful than trying to 'get' from them what you need. Many advisors are already at this place - far many more can use this as a guide through this tough economic time.

Remember, 'giving' is not charity (although giving to charitable causes is a pretty good thing to do as well). 'Giving' is not working for free. And, most importantly, 'giving' is not 'giving in' - far from it. 'Giving' is empowering your thoughts and actions with the Truth, that you can solve this client's problem for them if they will only meet you with the monetary requirements that you have to make your business together hold the integrity that is required in any relationship where both parties benefit. You 'get' to cash that engagement check when you realize that what you 'give' has more value than something as commoditized as money.

This is the answer to one of the best questions that I have been asked in a very long time. It is the perspective that continues to drive me forward with my Pinnacle business today. Did I 'give' you something to think about that may change the way you reach your goals in 2009? Did I do this wondering what I will 'get' from it? No - this is a free newsletter. But, I do 'get' the opportunity to further our relationship together and, that, my friends, is sometimes the best that you can ask of the person with whom you are communicating - not everyone is ready to step forward today to further their education or accept what you have to give. But that does not even register on my 'scoreboard' because I know that 'giving' this message today - in this marketplace - will make a difference. Take this same conviction with you on your next meeting with a business owner - then re-read this newsletter and do it again and again. You will be amazed at the big difference that this little shift makes.

As always, I wish you well and look forward to helping you reach your goals in 2009.

Specializing in Business Exit Strategies, John M. Leonetti, Esq., M.S. Finance, CM&AA founded Pinnacle Equity Solutions to provide exit strategy planning services to business owners as well as education and training programs for professional advisors. To learn more about John's Exit Strategy Services and his recently published book, "Exiting Your Business, Protecting Your Wealth", visit

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