Imagine you and I are walking through the centre of Portsmouth. Someone calls out from a car, “I need to get the Isle of Wight Ferry! I am in a hurry!” If someone called through their car window asking for directions, we may just simply tell them how to get to the ferry and that’s all the advice we need to give.
But, let’s unpick this a little and pretend for a moment that we’re experts in getting to the Isle of Wight. Have we met the driver’s needs? We answered their question and they might be entirely satisfied. Job done. But have we really done the best job we can for them, as experts in our field?
The driver has stated they are in a hurry. Because we are experts in getting to the Isle of Wight, we actually know there are many ways to do that. All different and each one ‘the best’ in certain contexts. So we take a moment to find out what the driver’s ultimate objective is and what their needs are, beyond finding the ferry terminal. We find they have a meeting in Cowes and then they’re coming back. We then find we are able to advise on the best way to reach that ultimate goal. It turns out the ‘best way’ for them is, in fact, to catch the hovercraft. It is quicker to cross and by leaving the car behind, cheaper too.
If a business comes to me with a specific request – please help me buy this building to put my business in – and all I do is help them buy the building then I am a service provider. What can I offer a client as an expert in commercial property that will do more than simply point them in the right direction? I can enquire into the reasons behind the purchase and challenge the assumptions and motivations behind the request. I would inform the client whilst building their understanding of the implications and consequences of purchasing a property. I would also help the client to use the right mechanisms for owning the property and then leasing it back to the business. In doing so, I have shown myself to be an expert and an expert is in fact what the business owner needed, rather than a service provider.
I have not just met the client’s needs but have guided them towards a significantly better solution; perhaps one they had not contemplated. Even though they had all the data, they didn’t have the skills, knowledge and experience to point themselves in the right direction.
Experts add value – that’s what experts do.