Who can the trusted advisor trust?

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Yesterday, a great friend, Nicole, earned one of the highest honors in the accounting marketing world: She was named marketer of the year. This is essentially an award given only to one out of 800 accounting marketers nationwide. It’s a huge honor and she is as deserving, if not more so, than every previous award winner I’ve ever known. Her professional accomplishments are astonishing – kudos to her!

Personally, I have a lot in common with Nicole. We both have young kids, love wine, craft beer, innovative food, and adventurous travel. We both feel compelled to honor our personal commitments to our employers, clients, friends and family. She’s offered great advice to me on so many personal matters that I can’t even begin to count.

Professionally, I have a lot in common with Nicole, too. We’ve both spent a long time in accounting marketing, have led growing departments at growing firms, had amazing leaders and mentors, aspire to innovate, are open to new ideas, all while maintaining a close eye on ROI. We both serve our clients to the best of our ability and recognize when an outside perspective is necessary. She hires me to speak, train and coach; I hire her firm to do my accounting and call upon her personally to serve many of my growth consulting clients.

This sure sounds like a great relationship, and I feel as if she is among my few trusted advisors – a perfect blend of a personal and professional relationship. Would she feel similarly? Are we mutual trusted advisors? I hope so, but as I did not secure her express advance approval for this post, I can’t really be sure.

Nevertheless, how did we get here? How did this all start? Are mutual trusted advisors really a thing?

From my perspective, it all started with sharing my willingness to open up and share details of my personal life on a 1:1 basis. Finding commonalities in the little things; asking questions about her weekend plans and truly listening to the responses; learning about what motivates her as a person; and what her true passions are and how they have shaped her life. Before long, this business relationship blossomed into a meaningful personal relationship, and most recently graduated to trusted advisor level.

How many of you can envision this with a handful of clients? A symbiotic business and personal relationship in which giving and receiving is frequent and beneficial to both?

Was I apprehensive in doing this? You bet. But what got us to the table together (the professional side of the relationship) had reached the end of the runway. I’m a good accounting marketer, she’s an excellent one, but that can’t sustain a dinner conversation for too long.

My challenge for you: Be willing to open up to your clients. Start with yourself and see if they take your lead. Take the risk to blend the professional with the personal and elevate the relationship to something truly special. David Maister said that the trusted advisor relationship is a unique and rare blend of personal and professional aspects that only happens with a few select clients and contacts.

While you won’t have many mutual trusted advisors, you can and should have a few. Try this with one relationship that has potential. Now go out and find your Nicole.

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