We just had a big family gathering, and after a generous and noisy dinner, my dad asked me: “Why in the world do people hire you as a consultant and pay you so much money?”

It took me a second or two to recover from the shock that my own father is questioning the validity of my profession, especially after I’ve been doing it 20 years. But I realized this is a very fundamental and important question: Why do people hire “trusted advisors”? (I will use this generic term for all professionals that offer counsel— advisors, planners, consultants, attorneys, CPAs, doctors, etc.) This question is both a very healthy one to ask ourselves as well as a very good one to be prepared to answer when clients bring it up.

We all hire trusted advisors because we have decisions to make, and those decisions are often too big and too complicated to make on our own.

Should I pay for my grandkids’ college? Do I start chemotherapy or do I wait? Should I sign this restrictive partnership agreement? Should I sell some shares to my employees?

Our decisions about these complex problems are sometimes literally about life or death, wealth or poverty, and we cannot and perhaps should not make them on our own, so we need the help of an expert.

Why Pay To Have Friends?
We need experts, but why do we need to pay them all the time? Why not hire a doctor only when you are sick—or a consultant only when your company is struggling, or a financial advisor only when you bump into a money problem?

Because even though that would be efficient, it could also be disastrous. We create ongoing relationships with professionals so that they get to know us well, and that knowledge turns into insight and sometimes life-changing decisions.

I am a boxer, and in 2010 I got a concussion that caused bleeding in my brain—a potentially fatal problem that could have led to significant brain damage (perhaps it did). I realized something was wrong (it was not my first concussion) and sought the help of my doctor. Three different times on three different days I tried to get an appointment, and every time I got sent to the emergency room because my doctor was not available.

The staffs in the emergency rooms I visited, not knowing anything about me and despite my insistence that big guys hitting me on the head probably resulted in a concussion, signed me out with three different diagnostic opinions—all of them wrong. Eventually, I ended up in intensive care where a polite young doctor told me I was lucky to be alive and I should have sought the help of my doctor right away. I agreed.

So today I have a “concierge” doctor. I pay a monthly fee, and in exchange, whenever I have a health issue, I always get to see my doctor the same day. What’s more, when the issue is serious, he calls on nights and weekends. Even better, when I walk through the door, he already knows my entire history and remembers not just that I have kids but that I also still box and have very bad knees and high blood pressure.

We pay experts on an ongoing basis so that we can develop a relationship that gives them the knowledge and insight to serve us well and so that when the important decisions come, they are well prepared, equipped with the right information and available to help us.

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