Six Stones – Choosing an Adviser

My last post was about how hard it can be to trust somebody to help you with your questions, to have your best interests at heart.

One of the questions we asked was – how do you actually choose an adviser?

Because choosing who to work with is such a leap of faith, because an adviser is, by definition, an expert in an area you’re not.

So accessing the value of that expertise requires you to trust them.

It used to be we chose advisers on their mechanical skills, their specific knowledge and qualifications.

And sure, in some cases that’s what you’ll still want (if I’m looking at an arcane part of the law, you bet I want a lawyer with specific knowledge in that one area).

But that mechanical knowledge is cheap now.

With the sheer volume of information available now, it’s reasonable to expect that every expert has a base level of knowledge – or the ability to access it quickly and efficiently.

If we can take that expertise for granted, then how else do we distinguish the many different options in front of us?

We need to have a greater awareness of the real value the adviser can bring, and we identify that by asking questions beyond just “do they know their stuff?”.

More Questions

Questions like:

  • Are we on the same wavelength?

  • How can they help me?

  • Do they work with other people like me?

  • Will they do what they say?

  • And, critically, how do I feel when I speak with them?

Because in all but some of the most specialised cases, you have the power when selecting which adviser you will trust.

Now, what process do I think you should follow when engaging an adviser?

1.       Work out exactly what you need help with.

a.       Write down what the problem is and what a good outcome would be.

b.       Can you do it alone? If so, fantastic – is it worth you doing it alone?

c.       If not, then you’ll need to engage someone.

2.       Ask your friends and family for recommendations.

a.       Try to get details – what area did they help with, what did they do well, what could they have done better?

3.       Search online.

a.       But only briefly – avoid the rabbit hole of finding the ‘perfect’ review.

b.       You’re just looking for a few names for your list and validation of the names your family and friends have given you.

4.       Choose at least three to call – and no more than five.

a.       Any more than five and you run the risk of being paralysed by the decision.

b.       Fewer than three and you won’t get sufficient exposure to a range of approaches.

5.       Ask some initial questions to work out if it’s a good fit. Some might be:

a.       What kind of people do you normally help?

b.       How long have you been doing this?

c.       Most uncomfortably – how do you charge for your work?

d.       None of these are ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions, and your acceptance of the different options will be different from everyone else’s.

6.       Meet with at least three different options.

a.       Explain to them that you’re exploring your options and would like to discuss how they work.

b.       Appreciate that they won’t, or can’t, or definitely shouldn’t answer your issues in that first meeting.

c.       Think of it as a job interview.

7.       Have them send you a written summary of what they’re offering.

8.       Choose one to work with.

a.       And work with them in good faith, with some confidence in your decision. You’re on the same team now.

This is not going to be a quick process, which is good.

Each step helps you solidify in your mind what you’re seeking – and each contact with your options is an opportunity to gauge how you feel about them.

And this process will help you to find someone you can trust, with confidence that you’ve been careful in doing so.

Often, this person is going to be joining you down in the trenches, so it’s important to pick someone you can trust.

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