- Of the four types of advisors you’ll meet, consummate
professionals are the only ones with whom you should work.
- Consummate professionals are thought leaders who stay highly
informed about ideas that add value to your life—and who share
them with you freely.
- They’re also well-known by other top financial professionals.
Caveat emptor—Latin for “Let the buyer beware.”
The phrase is sometimes used as a disclaimer for products and services you buy. But it can
also apply to the professionals who provide products and services to you. Essentially, it is up
to you to do your homework when selecting, say, a financial or legal professional.
And as an accomplished entrepreneur, you probably rely on various professionals (or will at
some stage of your business life cycle). That’s because your talents and skills, considerable
as they may be, are probably not in money management. Or tax minimization strategies. Or
wealth transfer to heirs.
Nor should they be. Focusing on what you do well as an entrepreneur will likely allow you to
achieve your highest level of success possible. Therefore, it’s probably in your best interests
to turn to financial, legal and lifestyle professionals to help you address issues around your
wealth and assets.
Here’s a system we’ve developed for identifying the right types of professionals for your
needs and ensuring you work only with them.
Four types of professional advisors
When it comes to their intent and capabilities, all professional advisors can be grouped
into four categories (see Exhibit 4). But only the advisors in one of these categories are in a
position to help you become seriously wealthy—and keep that wealth.
1. Consummate professionals are experts in their respective fields who are recognized as
leading authorities by their peers and other professionals as well as by their clients. They
are extremely talented and highly adept experts in their fields. They’re also sincerely
motivated to deliver the absolutely best and most appropriate solutions available to help
you grow and protect your hard-earned wealth (as well as deal with other aspects of your
life, depending on the professional).
2. Pretenderswant to do a very good job for their clients, but they lack the knowledge
and capabilities to do so. Despite noble intentions, they are not able to provide you
with the strategies and products you need to become seriously wealthy and achieve
your financial and lifestyle goals. They rarely have expertise in (or access to) advanced
proficiencies that can be so very important to you (such as top-of-the-line concierge
medicine, personal security and family financial education). Pretenders do not know what
they do not know. Regrettably, a great number of financial professionals are Pretenders.
3. Predators are criminals—intent on separating you from your wealth. They are the con
artists, swindlers and hustlers resolved to steal from you through cunning, guile and
duplicity. Predators work outside the law and seek to manipulate the successful and
wealthy, capitalizing on the greed, naiveté or goodwill of their victims.
4. Exploiters regularly push the envelope with highly aggressive (albeit technically legal)
financial solutions and strategies that are very likely to fail or be rejected by the IRS at
some point. Unlike Pretenders, they are usually very knowledgeable and skilled. Unlike
Predators, they do not engage in presently illegal actions. However, they also do not look
out for your best interests. Instead, they focus on promoting services and products that
are often inappropriate or structured in ways that may produce bad outcomes for you
down the line.
Two ways to find the true professionals
Obviously, you want to work with consummate professionals who are recognized experts
and who are sincerely committed to delivering the solutions that best meet your needs,
preferences and goals.
So how do you find these exemplary professionals—especially when so many financial and
legal advisors do not fit the bill?
You look for two characteristics.
Characteristic #1: They are thought leaders
Successful business owners—and most everyone else, for that matter—want to work with
exceptional experts. Very, very often, the exceptional experts are thought leaders.
Definition: A thought leader is a professional who is seen as an authority in his or her field
by peers, other professionals, and the people he or she serves. Moreover, thought leaders
freely share their expertise—with the intent of providing real value and raising the bar for
Thought leaders are quite confident in their knowledge and skills, so they are willing to readily
share cutting-edge information, insights, ideas and actionable strategies.
Thought leaders typically demonstrate three key qualities:
• They are highly informed. They make concerted efforts to know what is on the horizon
in their fields and areas of expertise, and how those developments will impact their
• They work to stay at the forefront. These consummate professionals are highly
committed to continuing to provide high-value information and insights on an ongoing
basis. Being a thought leader is all about habitually sharing ideas, concepts and solutions.
• They are well-known among other consummate professionals. As they say, “Birds of
a feather flock together.” Because of the specialized nature of their expertise, thought
leaders are highly recognized and appreciated by a meaningful but select group of
people—especially other professionals who endeavor to do their best for their clients.
Probably the most effective way to determine if a professional is a thought leader is to see
if he or she regularly introduces you to new ideas, concepts and potential solutions that
may be beneficial to you. By sharing new perspectives that might prove advantageous—and
doing so often—these professionals demonstrate their breadth and depth of expertise and
that they are regularly thinking about ways to bring value to you and your situation.
Important: True thought leaders will also share information and insights that are useful
to you but do not financially benefit them. For example, a thought leader might help you
understand what concierge medicine is all about if a member of your family is having health
issues—even if he or she doesn’t earn any money from sharing that information.
Characteristic #2: They know the top professionals you already
Our research into the Super Rich (net worth of $500 million or more), family offices and
ultra-wealthy business owners reveals a telling trend: These extremely successful, wealthy
individuals rely on their existing professional advisors. They may occasionally ask a friend,
associate or peer for a referral to an advisor, of course. But overall, they much prefer to turn
to professionals who have already proven themselves.
When it comes to choosing a financial or legal professional, there are a number of reasons
successful individuals rely on the opinions of professionals they currently work with.
• The professionals are much more likely than you to know the thought leaders. For
example, an exceptional wealth manager will probably know which private client lawyers
and high-net-worth accountants are thought leaders in your geographic area.
• When a very particular type of expertise is required, they tend to know the most
adept specialist for the job. If you are dealing with a complex situation, you are going
to want the expert who knows the key issues and answers inside and out—not someone
who might be learning as they bill you.
• They usually know the personalities and working arrangements of these other
experts, so they can introduce you to someone you will feel comfortable with. To
get optimal results, you not only have to work with a consummate professional who is a
thought leader as well, but you also have to find the experience itself rewarding.
• The professionals will refer well, knowing they have “skin in the game.” If the referral
a professional makes is a bad one or a poor fit, the trust and relationship between that
professional and his or her client can be damaged. Therefore, professionals are highly
motivated to make very certain that they refer only to experts who can do an exceptional
job for their clients.
The Next Step
You can explore the topic further with your legal or financial professional to help you consider
the right next step for you given your unique situation.