Who Are Your “Trusted Advisors”?

When it comes to your success, your advisors can make you or break you. In the 1990s, I made a terrible financial mistake. As a result of my success as a writer and a speaker, I made some significant extra income. I was also holding down a full-time job. I could barely keep up with it all.

A Financial Advisor Helping a Couple with Their Financial Planning - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Yuri_Arcurs, Image #12401349

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Yuri_Arcurs

As a result, I hired a financial advisor to help me manage my money. I had heard him speak at a conference where I was also a speaker. I was impressed by what he said. We got further acquainted backstage during the conference.

If you are just getting started with Evernote, I suggest that you buy Brett Kelly’s remarkably practical e-book, Evernote Essentials, 4.0. It will save you HOURS of learning Evernote on your own.

Long story short, I hired him to assist me in managing my money. At the time, I thought I was very smart. As it turns out, it was probably the dumbest thing I had ever done in my life—and that’s saying a lot.

The first thing he did was set up a “tax shelter” for my investments. It was creative and brilliant. Or so I thought. I saved tens of thousands in taxes alone. The only problem was that it turned out to be a scam.

I didn’t realize it until four years later when I got a notice from the IRS. Talk about something taking your breath away. I almost passed out.

It took me almost three years to get it resolved. I went through agony—an expensive and time-consuming audit and scores of sleepless nights. The uncertainty of how it would turn out gnawed at me constantly.

Thankfully, my nightmare eventually came to an end. But at a big cost. With interest and penalties, I paid more than twice my entire investment. It was a miracle that I survived.

The point is, your advisors can make you or break you. Mine nearly broke me. In the process, I learned several hard but important lessons:

  1. You can’t succeed alone. For years, I was a lone ranger. I didn’t seek anyone’s counsel. I thought I could do it all myself. No one could measure up to my standards.

    But, frankly, I was just young and arrogant. I was my own advisor, and I had a fool for a client. Thankfully, God was merciful. He gently showed me that I couldn’t succeed on my own. I needed other people.

  2. You need trusted advisors. The truth is that we all need advisors. We can’t be experts in everything. Any good advisor will assist you with five key tasks. They will:
    • Educate you with relevant and timely information.
    • Provide objectivity in evaluating your current situation.
    • Seek to understand your goals and why they are important to you.
    • Suggest several possible strategies for achieving your goals.
    • Use their expertise and network of contacts to help you accomplish your goals in the quickest, most economical way possible.
  3. You need multiple advisors. Three times the Bible says, “in a multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14; 15:22; and 24:6). The key word is “multitude.” One lone advisor doesn’t qualify. This is where I missed the boat. I had one advisor. The truth is you need several advisors. And you need to be intentional and thoughtful about collecting them.

    I currently have several trusted advisors. I don’t make any significant moves, either personally or professionally, without consulting with them. These are like concentric circles, radiating out from the center. They provide multiple layers of protection. They include:

    • My Wife. Gail and I have been married now for 32 years. She is my best friend. She’s my biggest cheerleader and my toughest critic. She knows first-hand my strengths and weaknesses—better than I know them myself. I can always count on her to “speak the truth in love.”
    • My Spiritual Advisors. I have two: my pastor and my former pastor (both in the same church). I have sat under their spiritual direction for almost 26 years. They keep me focused on my Ultimate Priority and keep my moral compass calibrated to True North.
    • My Financial Advisors. This is not a natural strength for me nor do I have time to do it as well as I would like. Consequently, I have two advisors who help me make the best decisions I can make. One helps me with planning, the other assists me with tax counsel.
    • My Business Coaches. Again, I have two. Both are accomplished business professionals. They work with numerous executives in a variety of businesses. The provide needed objectivity and, every once in a while, a good kick in the pants. They stretch me to do things I would never try without their encouragement. They also keep me from making serious mistakes.
    • My Corporate Colleagues. I have five people who report directly to me. They are remarkable people in terms of their commitment, professional skills, and career experience. They are also very different from one another. They don’t always agree, but together, they give me a comprehensive view of our business. As a result, I make better decisions.
    • My Best Friends. Apart from work, I currently have five close guy friends. Some of these are also “couple friends” (e.g., we get together as couples). We talk about what is important. We share our successes and our failures, our dreams and our fears. If something happened, good or bad, I know they would show up in an instant.
  4. You need qualified advisors. King David said, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful” (Psalm 1:1). It’s one thing to get counsel, but that is not enough. You have to get the right kind of counsel. This is the mistake I made in selecting my first financial advisor.

    Before I elevate someone to the status of “trusted advisor,” I want to make sure they have four qualifications:

    • Shared values. You won’t discover these by merely talking. It takes time. People demonstrate their values by their behavior. I want to see that they are committed to the same things I am committed to.
    • Professional Acumen. I want to hire the very best person I can find to advise me in a given area. I want them to have broad, deep, and current information. I want them to have made a lot of mistakes, so they can help me avoid them.
    • Positive Track Record. Talk is cheap. I want someone who can point to consistent results. Generally speaking, this means I am going to gravitate toward older, wiser advisors.
    • Good references. Proverbs 18:17 says, “The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him.” In other words, you shouldn’t believe someone’s story until you check it out. I can’t emphasize this enough. This is the difference-maker. I never hire anyone anymore without thoroughly checking their references.

So, like I said, your advisors can make you or break you. Think of them as your “personal board of directors.” They will give you the accountability and insight necessary to avoid a lot of pain and achieve more than you could on your own.

Question: Where could you benefit right NOW from having some trusted advisors?
Get My New, 3-Part Video Series—FREE! Ready to accomplish more of what matters? 2015 can be your best year ever. In my new video series, I show you exactly how to set goals that work. Click here to get started. It’s free—but only until Monday, December 8th.

Get my FREE video series now!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Who Are Your “Trusted Advisors”? | Michael Hyatt -- Topsy.com()

  • http://www.igniteyouressence.com Justin Popovic

    I can relate to being a lone ranger. When I first got started as an entrepreneur, I WAY over confident and did not want to listen to anyone's advice. I categorized all advice as someone trying to hold me back. Had I listened to even some of the feedback, I would have done things a lot differently and probably saved a lot of money, time and even some embarrassment. Having said that, I truly believe this is how we learn so I don't regret it.

    On the topic of advisors, I could stand to use some advisors in my business. I have a few experienced friends I go to for ideas but I don't have a formal advisor to run my ideas past. I am becoming more and more interested in the prospect of doing this. I guess my question is, how do you find a good advisor to help you get what you need?

    I supposed I will start by asking for referrals and see where it takes me. Getting someone with a proven track record is key.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I would start asking for referrals. You might go to a few successful, retired business people.

    • http://www.facebook.com/SafetyInNumbers Jude Boudreaux

      Justin, as an entrepreneur you might want to look into a group like the Entrepreneur's Organization. It's a great group of other entrepreneurs who create community to share experience and help each other grow their business. It's not a leads group, and soliciting other EO members is prohibited, but it is a great way to talk to others who are walking that road and get some great, candid advice.

  • http://www.sequoiathoughts.blogspot.com Connie Brown

    This is a helpful post. Thank you for sharing this. I'm especially surprised you included the the line about selecting advisers who have made mistakes — impressive.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      After a while, you can really tell the difference between those whose knowledge is theoretical and those who have been the school of hard knocks.

  • http://modernservantleader.com/ Ben Lichtenwalner

    I humbly suggest adding stakeholder status to your list of qualifications for advisors. I want someone with skin in the game. For example, pastors made their commitment to Christ for our proper spiritual guidance. Our direct reports must live with the consequences of decisions we make together and our spouses are stuck with us through the sum of all our decisions and their consequences. As a result, these advisors have long-term implications at stake with our decisions and are more certain to provide long-term focused input. Objective, third party and paid professionals have their benefits. However, to be classified as a true advisor, I want a long-term stake holder in my success and my business.

    I also loved your comment about advisors that have made mistakes. Experience through failures is far too undervalued in business and in life.

    Another top quality post. Thank you for sharing Michael.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      That's a good addition, Ben. Thank you.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/herbhalstead herbhalstead

      "Experience through failures is far too undervalued in business and in life." well said!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/BLichtenwalner Ben Lichtenwalner

      Thanks Michael and Herb.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/dheagle93 dheagle93

    As a pastor, one of the areas I could benefit, long-term, is from business people as advisors. It's kind of a loop: my education, experience, and effort has been within church circles, so I'm not as up to speed on the business world as others.

    Personally, where I need good counsel relates to some decisions ahead of me related to where I will be serving in the coming months and years, and help to learn from the mistakes I've made where I presently serve. It's difficult to find straightforward counsel in ministry worlds. It's generally either hyper-spiritual "pray more, have more faith" that is likely true but hard to measure, or too business-like, where there is no involvement of spiritual matters at all.

    So, the bulk of my counsel comes from books I read, though flesh and blood would be great to have!


    • http://www.blissassociates.com Bill Bliss


      I currently provide executive and leadership coaching to a number of Christian CEOs and other business leaders as well as some pastors. I take a bible centered approach – if you want to talk about it more I would be happy to suggest some resources I may know of that might be helpful to you. You can contact me at wbliss@blissassociates.com. I am located in South Carolina, and work with leaders all over the US.

      Bill Bliss

      • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/dheagle93 dheagle93

        Thank you for the suggestion. As I go through this transition, I'll be looking into the possibilities.


    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Another possibility is Ministry Coaching International. It was started by the same people who started Building Champions. I know the people, and they are excellent.

      • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/dheagle93 dheagle93

        Thank you for that suggestion. I'll take a look!


  • http://www.blissassociates.com Bill Bliss

    Michael, another awesome post! Trusted advisors are critical to one's success – not just for the benefits of success but also to avoid some potential great failures as well. When I began my company 14 years ago, I assembled an Advisory Board of 3 business leaders who knew me, wanted me to be successful, had a lot more experience than I did and had no other agenda but to be of help to me. I met with them quarterly, laid out an operational plan and asked for their input as well as their support in holding me accountable. It was a wonderful experience. We met quarterly for a half a day and I paid each of them – not what they deserved, but as a token of my appreciation.

    For Christian business leaders and owners, there are great resources available to set up a peer advisory group or council of business advisors. Two groups that are well known are Fellowship of Companies for Christ International (www.fcci.org) and C12 (www.c12group.com). (In full disclosure, I am a Board member of FCCI.)

    I so enjoy your posts – I thank you for your discipline of keeping them up!


    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your kind words and for these valuable resources!

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/chrisshaughness chrisshaughness

    This is a quite a timely post for me right now, and I thank you. My book is just about to be published and I am planning on donating some of the proceeds to several animal rescue organizations. i'm so nervous that 1) the book won't sell and 2) that it will sell a lot and I'll have a great deal of income thus a lot of income taxes! i've consulted with my tax advisor but I'm not certain that he's well-versed on this issue. I'm going to take your advice and go to someone else just to be safe. God bless you for sharing your knowledge and helping so many of us.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/clayhebert clayhebert


    There is a good book on selling called "The Trusted Advisor" by David H. Maister, Charles H. Green and Robert M. Galford. David and Charles spoke on a panel with Chris Brogan and Julien Smith at a "Trust Summit" at the Harvard Club last year, discussing the parallels between their two books. Two different audiences & topics but it's all about trust.

    Google Books link here: http://bit.ly/thetrustedadvisorbook

    Amazon link here: http://www.amazon.com/Trusted-Advisor-David-H-Mai

    Keep leading, Mike.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for these resources. I will check them out.

  • Jim Thomason

    This is one of your best posts Mike. It is practical and helpful for people at all levels in an organization. Bravo!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Jim. You are definitely one of my trusted advisors, especially when it comes to all things HR!

  • http://www.CoachDanFoster.com Dan Foster

    Mike – thanks for this great reminder. It was very timely for me personally. I do the lone ranger approach to much and suffer the consequences. One person cannot see every perspective or look at things objectively all the time, so having a group of trusted advisors is essential. Keep up the great work! – Dan

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      You are welcome, Dan.

  • http://twitter.com/obihaive @obihaive

    Great post. I've had the blessing of several trusted advisors in my life and they have made a great impact on my life. I can't imagine where I'd be without them in my life.

  • http://davidbmclaughlin.com davidbmc

    Very good post Michael!

    One of the most important things we can do once we have qualified advisors is LISTEN! So often what we deem as good advice is advice that concurrs with the decision we have already made. A wise person can recognize good advice that differs from our own opinion.


    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      It’s harder to listen as you move up the totem pole. People expect you to have the answers and do the talking. It takes deliberate humility and self-awareness to ask questions, listen, and answer follow-up questions.

  • Matt

    Wow. This is one of the most open blog posts that I have ever seen, and as a result, one of the most powerful. Was it difficult (emotionally) to write? I can imagine that it might not have been fun to resurface those feelings again. i hope that many people get to use your advice, and learn from your experiences portrayed here. Well done.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      It was tough emotionally. I actually wrote it about six months ago but had to let it simmer on the back-burner. The whole situation was embarrassing, and it was hard to admit that I was that stupid!

      • http://www.suzshawblogspot.com Susie

        I think sharing openly and about being a learner is the true sign of trusted leadership. Keep up the courage!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhsmith michaelhsmith

    I too wish I had taken the time to surround myself with trusted advisers when I was younger. Now I do have those people in my life… it is never too late.

    Your post reminds me that is our responsibility to pour ourselves into young leaders, co-workers and/or friends and help them see the need for advisers.

    We do the next generation a dis-service by not investing in them.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Amen, to that, Michael. I wish I had had people who were ore intentional about pouring into my life. But in the end, nothing is wasted. Even that lack makes me more intentional about mentoring.

  • http://theleaderlab.org davidburkus

    I totally agree. In lieu of one mentor, I set up a "board of advisors" about a year ago. It was one of the smartest moves I ever made.

  • David Hruska

    You may regard this as being diametrically opposite to some of your tenets.

    However, my most trusted personal and financial advisor has made virtually every possible blunder in his own life.

    But, I have found his “do as I say, not as I do” advice is almost always correct. Track Record-His is woefully abysmal. Mine has been great (using his advice).

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Based on my experience that is probably the exception to the rule.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/SpenceSmith SpenceSmith

    wow.. this is a great piece of advice. over the years i've tried to surround myself with wise people. For the most part it has worked out well and i'm grateful for their knowledge and advice. i think what gets me though is watching some of my artist/author friends work with managers or agents who don't really have their best interest in mind.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      So true. It's so easy just to turn the reigns over, especially if you are creative and don't want to fool with the business stuff. People do so to their own peril.

      Thanks for your comment, Spence.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/1ballerina 1ballerina

    Mr. Hyatt,
    When we share the rough times we have come through, as you just have, we are helping others and doing God's work.

    2 Corinthians 12:9-10
    "But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

    Thank you for using your "weakness" to help your readers become stronger. I strongly believe that
    each of us has something of value to share with others– it is our mission to find it and give it away.

    I benefit each time you share,


    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Henri Nouwen has a great book, The Wounded Healer, that talks about this exact thing. Thanks for the encouragement.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/success2you John Richardson

    Awesome post, Mike. Thank you for sharing and leading on this important topic. Some of my greatest "trusted advisors" are authors and speakers who share their specialized knowledge with others. It may be a Chris Brogan talking about social media and communication. It may be a Seth Godin talking about marketing and business development. It may be an Anne Jackson sharing her real life experiences with her readers via blog comments.

    While I think everyone needs an inner circle of people that they can meet one on one with and that will hold them accountable, it's also a good idea to listen to leaders at the top of their game. I truly consider you as one of my trusted advisors, Michael. The knowledge that you impart here and the collective wisdom of your readers is incredible. Keep up the great work!

  • http://www.rachelhauck.com Rachel HAUCK

    Mike, outstanding post! Well said. Yes and amen.


  • http://fromthehouseofedward.blogspot.com Pamela

    Good advice, for artists especially.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jennyrain JennyRain

    Two valued advisors I have right now are my mentors. I purposely sought out two women who have over 60 years of marriage between them to pour into my life because I am in year two of my marriage (I knew I'd need help). Both of these women love God and have had a long term, very stable relationship with God and with their husbands. I have learned so many wonderful lessons from them and my marriage is stronger because God is using them!

    Great post about having advisors in other areas of our lives though… Thanks!

  • http://www.suzshawblogspot.com Susie Shaw

    Making a decision with job/ministry and if that means a location move (2 years that have felt like wandering). I have good friend but they are in a similar boat so the counsel feels "stuck" or perhaps i'm just stuck.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/bgallen BG Allen

    Great counsel – I used to be very much a lone ranger as well and have paid a price for that attitude (pride). I now have six men in my life & they have blessed me greatly with their wise counsel.

    Great post & great advice. Thanks!

  • Pingback: Top Posts for July 2010()

  • Pingback: The Leader’s Trusted Advisors | Bret L. Simmons - Positive Organizational Behavior()

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Who Are Your “Trusted Advisors”? -- Topsy.com()

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marry-Steffan/100003010596517 Marry Steffan

    Thanks for the helpful post to clarify the unclear things about business advisers…
    business consultant melbourne

  • Pingback: 5 warning signs that an Opportunity is a Scheme in disguise | Todd Liles()

  • Pingback: Who are your “Trusted Advisers”? | iPlanning Wealth Management: Independent Financial Advisers in Ammanford()