Lessons from the Advisory Business

Most of us navigate better with a road map. We’d like to believe that someone who’s been there before can show us the way. One problem is that the world around us keeps changing and the maps don’t generally keep getting updated.

Another is that the “explorers” we want to rely on typically were going someplace else that just kind of looks like where we want to go. In this world we use money as a proxy for pretty much everything. Success in business or in life has to be defined in our own terms.

At the risk of getting too philosophical, in the west we generally look at things through the lens of economics. This has serious ramifications when it conflates money with value. It is sometimes the “externalities” that have supreme importance. Consider the current global pandemic or the rapidly accelerating changes to our climate.

Externalities often occur when the production or consumption of a product or service’s private price equilibrium cannot reflect the true costs or benefits of that product or service for society as a whole.[


In this section we’ll look at a couple of would-be business advisors who have developed a certain presence in the marketplace and who both get a lot of things right…

A Tale of Two Advisors

Steve Blank

Steve Blank is a key figure in the lean startup movement.

Alex Glassey

Alex Glassey is the founder of StratPadTM an excellent online business planning tool.

Government Accelerators

Predictably government accelerators don’t get much right. The staff are public sector administrators who generally repeat much of the misguided nonsense they learned in college many years ago.

They also provide “free” or low-cost services to small businesses by getting commercial service providers to offer seminars and workshops. These are only as good as the service providers themselves. Most often the “advisors” they showcase are using this as an opportunity to sell their various consulting services.

I remember once a colleague advised me that my seminar on MONEY & VALUATIONS was too informative. The M.O. he learned from his alma mater – a large CPA firm – was to skimp on details and try to hook potential clients into a tax or advisory engagement with the firm. The seminar was merely an opportunity for an introduction to prospective clients.

If as a prospective client you understand this, this may be an opportunity to meet someone who is capable of doing what you need. However most experienced service providers rely on referrals from existing clients to develop new business. As a tax specialist I soon found it was a waste of time, since the early stage businesses they were trying to attract, simply weren’t ready and didn’t know what they didn’t know.

Today our clients come from tax generalist firms and existing or former clients.




This sequence of steps was taught to all of us in college. The problem is doesn’t make sense for most freelancers and small teams just starting out – particularly if they’re launching a service business.