There’s an old line in the classic car business worth thinking about: “Don’t buy the car, buy the seller.”
Its meaning should be obvious. And it is only becoming more important now thanks to emerging technologies and the Covid crisis. People are buying collector cars sight unseen over the Internet.
Of course, back in the dark days of the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s the adage was important too. Difference was, back then the “seller” was actually the manufacturer. And back then, if you were buying a Mercedes, a Volvo, or a BMW, you were pretty sure you were buying a solid, well-built car. But if you were planning on laying down your hard-earned cash for the latest from American Motors, Ford, or most any car from Great Britain you couldn’t be so sure.
In those days, the brand name was your quick assurance that you were getting what you paid for. Why? Because back then, cars differed so much in quality.
But today, when all cars are designed and built by computers, when all cars have to pass stringent safety and emissions regulations, and when so many car companies achieve economies of scale by sharing engineering, components, and innovations with one another, all cars are competent and capable.
It’s the people selling them you need to be sure about.
Today the variable has moved from the product to the seller.
Of course, this way of making sure you’re buying the right product or listening to the right advice isn’t solely restricted to buying cars. Whether you’re deciding what newspaper to read, what physician to go visit, which consultant to hire, or even which politician to vote for, it’s more and more important to take a full measure of the person or the company you’re considering than to simply compare the products, services or promises they’re offering.
Venture capitalists and investment bankers will tell you that while they spend a lot of time reading the business plans and presentation decks they’re presented with, they put even more credence in the people who are asking for the investments. Not only because they want to deal with honest, experienced entrepreneurs, but because the savviest investors understand that the business plan they’re considering will most likely change time and time again before it finds success. What’s most important is knowing that the team they’re investing in will be able to weather changes, adapt to new realities, and zig and zag on their way to the promised land. Because that’s the best reassurance that their investment will produce a prosperous return.
Of course this bench depth becomes even more critical in times of uncertainty — much like many of the situations we’re dealing with today.
Surrounding yourself with friends and professionals who you can count on to deliver the best results might be the most powerful thing you can do to assure yourself a successful landing once things start to normalize. And adding to the quality and quantity of your own bench can be a powerful strategy to make sure you’re moving in the right direction and not getting bogged down by all the fear, misinformation or misdirection that’s swirling around us.
Masterminds and strategic roundtables are places where good people can come together to help each other and benefit from one another’s skill sets, experience, and contacts. So are the personal boards of directors you can build by assembling your smartest friends and associates and tasking them with making sure you’re taking the best path to success.
Whether you put these groups together with the intention of meeting regularly and helping you on your path, or you simply arrange them casually to give you good advice on a particular thorny issue or pressing problem, the outcome is the same. Having good, smart, experienced, honest, outspoken people looking out for your best interests is always a good thing.
And a great way to help you figure out what you want and to help you achieve success on your terms.