I visited my local GP surgery earlier this week with a minor ailment (I cracked a rib at the weekend), and reflecting on the experience afterwards a few points stood out in my mind:
- The process of making a medical diagnosis combines expertise, questions and physical examination to quickly identify the real cause of the problem
- The solution was explained to me in simple terms – how many tablets to take, when to take them and for how long
- My expectations were carefully managed – how long it would take for a partial and full recovery
It made me think about the kind of support business owners receive from their professional services providers. As trusted advisers to our clients we are often asked to help solve a business problem and I would like to think we follow a similar process to a GP.
Initially, we need to explore the problem, and separately identify the symptoms and their causes. We may choose in the short term to treat symptoms, but generally a long term sustainable solution will require us to address the root cause.
Once our diagnosis is complete, we can recommend a strategy and agree a plan of action with the business owner. This should include projected costs, timings and measures to track progress during the ‘treatment’.
Our own Marketing MOT is designed to work in this way – we learned the hard way that often the most valuable work we can do with a new client is to create a shared, objective assessment of their marketing position and history. From this position, we can map out some alternative ways to move forward and settle on a programme of work that everyone is comfortable with.
My advice to business owners is to check your advisers are doing a proper diagnosis before advocating a course of action. If they don’t, then to use the medical terminology, they are running a high risk of malpractice.