Lonely at the Top: Why Leaders Need an Outside Sounding Board (Part Three)

Over the last couple posts, we’ve been delving into some of the very real, but rarely discussed, challenges for senior leaders. We moved on to talk about our initial conversations and meetings, as well as the role I play as a trusted advisor and collaborator.

This week, we’ll review what a typical engagement looks like and the method to my madness. We’ll also touch on my approach to contracts and the value I see in not using them. My hope is that you’ll find a few nuggets in these posts that will help you solve challenges you may be facing.

In our initial session, we’ll have spent a significant amount together and we’re confident that we’re a good fit. We’ll then move on to discuss the intricacies of a typical engagement and the associated fee structure. My main objective is to provide CEOs and leaders with confidence that I’m there when needed. I’m well aware that virtually no CEO on the planet works 9-5. Neither do I. So, I want them to know that if they need me, they can reach out. I have their back. In addition, I want them to know that as a collaborator and advisor, they’re also getting my mental processing power. As we continue, I’ll strive to solve issues with them, even if we aren’t physically together.

This is a typical outline of where we start; we’ll customize the process from here.

  • Initial assessment:
    • Initial assessment, identification of goals, and document objectives (2-5 hours)
  • Recurring one-on-one meetings:
    • 2-4 monthly meetings, 1-3 hours long (as needed)
    • Face-to-face or via secured video conference
    • Additional meetings (as needed)
  • Access:
    • Full access, 7 days a week via emails and phone calls
    • Unlimited (if it gets crazy, we’ll talk about it)
  • Onsite visits:
    • As needed and agreed upon
  • Special projects:
    • As needed and agreed upon

At this point, I’ll address compensation and contracts. For these services, I’m compensated in the form of a flat monthly fee. I know some months it may tilt in favor of the client, and in others, mine. I’m okay with this. Everyone with whom I’ve worked thus far has been good with it as well. Regarding contracts… candidly, I don’t like them. I don’t want be locked in and I don’t want someone else to feel as if they’re locked in. Remember, for something like this to work the way it should, we have to have trust. In most cases, I don’t have any contracts in place with any of my clients. If ever they feel they’re not getting the value they need, we discuss it, and where appropriate, we part as friends. Period. I believe this keeps me on my toes and my clients engaged. I only want to be working with people I want to work with and who want to work with me. That being said, I do want a mental commitment for a minimum of six months to get started and a “gentlemen’s agreement” to that effect. In some cases, especially in larger organizations, I’ll provide a contract so that someone can use it simply to fill a file; however it’s known that I won’t enforce it. I find this approach to be a confidence-builder with my potential clients. Honestly, I feel okay charging a bit more because I know if they don’t feel they’re getting value, they’ll let me know. I believe it sets the tone of high expectations and trust right out of the gate.

My fees aren’t the highest in the country and they’re certainly not the lowest. I’m typically a hawk on price and believe it’s an indicator of value. When I charge a higher premium, I find that people I work with often do the homework better and are more engaged compared to a long time ago when I charged much less.

On a side note, I have friends who can’t believe I run my business this way. They frequently ask how many times I’ve gotten burned or if someone didn’t pay their bill. I’m pleased to say, never. I believe this is based upon two key points. In our initial session, if we don’t fit, we won’t work together. This doesn’t mean you aren’t a great person; it just means we aren’t a good fit. The second is that I always want to provide more value than what’s expected. This doesn’t happen 100% of the time, but it’s my personal goal of every session. I believe the combination of these two things is a winning formula.

If you’re a business owner, CEO, president, or chairman of the board, and you’d like to see if we may be a fit, I’d be humbled to have the opportunity to speak with you and to provide you with an hour of time to explore where we could go. http://entrepreneurial-advisors.com/contact/

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