Life's complicated, especially when we tackle new and varied personal and career challenges. Some of these challenges will require assistance from service providers at one point or another. Some of these relationships are fairly unemotional, like figuring out which phone service provider you hate the least. Others however, may grow to become some of the most influential and long lasting professional relationships in our lives. These relationships are the ones formed with people. People like your family GP, financial adviser, dentist & accountant.
Many of us grew up with a family GP. This GP ends up knowing absolutely everything about us. They tackle all those general things that arise from being an imperfect human. When something from left field came up, they would know what specialist was required to address this need and make the appropriate recommendation. In most circumstances your family GP worked for themselves or in a small clinic. Having a small, self-owned medical & dental practices provides the right set of incentives to align high quality patient care to the success of the professionals practice.
Similar relationships are formed with our accountant. Accountants often operate independent businesses and may act as a professional adviser for many decades and across multiple generations. Like GP's, good accountants recognise when specialist advice is required and will happily facilitate an introduction to the appropriate advice provider.
We will inevitably form personal relationships with these professionals, some of which may continue for significant portions of our life. Given the importance of these relationships, we are surprisingly relaxed about who we admit into our private personal & financial world. With this in mind we have outlined some of the key qualities that we believe should be core attributes in any professional partner.
The Five Key Attributes
Experience & Credentials
Ideally you want to work with someone who has invested heavily in their profession. When a professional has invested heavily (time and resources) in their vocation of choice, the consequences of negligent or inappropriate advice or treatment is far more significant for the individual;
- When selecting a GP or dentist, most will be well qualified, having completed med-school and undertaken rigorous intern & residency placements in a hospital or practice;
- For accountants and more importantly less stringently regulated financial advisers, a little more care is required when selecting a professional to work with. Not all have spent years studying and then honing their trade and this may be reflected in how they provide their services;
When you rely on professional advice to make your most important life decisions it is important to know that there are no external influences on the guidance you receive. You wouldn't be happy to accept medical advice from a GP employed via a pharmaceutical company. The same inherent conflict applies to a financial adviser employed by a bank or finance product provider;
Who is accountable for the advice/treatment you receive? Engage with a professional who is personally responsible for ensuring they provide a quality service. This might mean dealing directly with the principal/partner/owner of the business you are engaging or, if working with a professional in a larger business, making sure that the larger business is owned by its senior management (as in a partnership business model);
When a professional is consulted to provide advice or treatment, you will always receive more open and honest advice if there is no concern about external professional relationships.
E.g. Consider a GP who recommends a specialist that operates under the same roof. Should the specialist see a clear omission or error in the GP's treatment or diagnosis, they may not be inclined to convey this openly to the patient. There is value in having a second set of eyes review your needs.
E.g. An accountant may not be an investment or insurance expert but, a good accountant will be able to spot bad investment or insurance advice just like a good financial adviser will be able to spot poor tax advice.
Receiving honest feedback from different professionals about your circumstances will only occur if there is a separation of interest between professionals.
There is no point forming a relationship (professional or otherwise) with someone whose personality does not click with yours. You will not communicate well with people you do not have an immediate connection with and when dealing with professionals this can result in a less than satisfactory advice or treatment outcome. There are many professionals out there, look beyond a google search because finding the right fit may be the best investment of time you ever make.