It’s dangerous. This business is dangerous. Having good ideas, or great ideas can get you in trouble. Other advisors who have their heads down doing their day-to-day work often aren’t receptive to things they haven’t heard of. If they’re clients are approached with something new that they don’t know about, the knee jerk reaction is usually negative. Instead of taking the time to learn something new, something that may actually help, they simply throw up their hands and bring things to a halt. Why? Ego, maybe. Fear, maybe. But, “not invented here” haunts our profession and hurts our clients.

Recently talked to a business owner who is considering selling his business for several hundred million dollars. Of course, tax basis in the company was low and taxes on sale would be as much as $100 million. Discussions led us to a combination of strategies that would reduce taxes to next to nothing. Completely legal and with a little complexity. Nothing crazy. Nothing that couldn’t be accomplished within a reasonable period of time and with reasonable certainty of the outcome.

Surprise conference call with the attorney, the accountant, and other stakeholders with no chance to have preliminary understandings of the length and depth of the relationships. This is never a good sequence of events. Attorney and accountants and long-time advisors don’t want to be blindsided by an ideas brought to the table by others. Not that they shouldn’t be open to hearing them and even embracing them. In fact, if they put their client first, that should be what happens. But it normally doesn’t. The ideas catch them flat footed, off guard and unprepared. If it’s something they haven’t seen before, they don’t want to look unprepared or unintelligent. Easiest thing to do is to say it’s no good. Too complicated. Too risky.

I have been trying forever to find ways to prevent this. Collaboration with these other professionals with ample time to understand who they are and what they bring to the table is the best way. Clients don’t always give us the time to run our own process but we should be more insistent. They suffer by their own hand. “Not invented here” is the easy way out. Hurts everyone.

Maybe it’s the business model I operate in, advisor to advisor, but I have difficulty understanding why collaboration is so difficult for so many. To me, it seems to be the most natural way to work, for other financial professionals, it appears to be a mystery yet to be solved. Is collaboration really too hard to figure out? Too risky? Too threatening?

Last week, I did a client meeting online. On the Zoom were the client, the original advisor, me, and a premium financing expert. The task was to answer all the client’s extensive questions about the proposed financing arrangement. There was healthy, open give and take with all of us. At the end of our hour call, the client was comfortable and confident. He still had more questions and requests which were all fulfilled by a later email. The teamwork did nothing but help the client to move closer to his desired outcome. The team didn’t step on each other, allowing expertise to shine through. The client won. Why is this hard?

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