Not Everyone is an Expert

As long as I’ve been working I’ve met people who presented themselves as experts. Experience has made it quite clear that not everyone is an expert.

The Employee with All the Answers

Have you ever worked for a company that had one or two employees who had the answer to every issue? At least that’s the way they present themselves. Just for discussion let’s say the sales manager is this person. Imagine you’re in a meeting to discuss the budget being developed. In this case they would be the person who seemingly knows exactly how much to spend on everything and exactly how much sales will be. Now, they should have a pretty good hunch as to what sales will be if they did their research and analysis, but there is a great deal of doubt they really know the correct staffing for support positions. Do they really think they know exactly how many are needed in accounting or customer service? Of course, this person who thinks they have all the answers could also be the controller or the operations manager or just about any owner or manager in the company. The issue is they seem to think they are smarter than everyone else and an expert in every area. From my own past I can think of a couple of people who fit this description almost perfectly. Interestingly, this kind of person also is often resistant to input from others and are even known to shout others down. They are often the one who simply takes over a meeting and tells everyone how things work.

business meeting

Yet, when there is someone present who refuses to be bullied they often show the know-it-all to be a lot of hot air. Of course, if you’ve been around business for a while you already know not everyone is an expert, and this person is no exception.

The Outsider

Since I consult with small businesses as a part-time CFO and Controller this area is very important to me. Why? Well, there are at least a couple of reasons. One, I want them to receive quality service, and in order for that to happen I have to know my limitations. That is why I strive to continue to develop my knowledge and skills, but even with that there will be times when I have to decline an engagement or recommend someone else. I recall doing this not too long ago when a potential client had a situation that I didn’t think was one where I could serve him well. As a result I declined the engagement.

Yet, I’ve seen consultants come into a company and immediately try to wow anyone who will listen with their wealth of knowledge, only to find out later they really didn’t know what they were doing. In one instance a consultant was brought in to help find an investor to buy the company. This individual made a big production of what he was doing and how much he supposedly knew. Eventually he and some others became the buyers. A few months after buying the business they were forced to close. Was I surprised? No. Why? Well, for one thing he said enough in the times I interacted with him to know he was putting on a dog and pony show. Two, I also knew the condition of the company’s finances and that unless the buyers had very deep pockets it would be hard to do a turnaround. He wanted people to think he was the solution to the problem.

Since not everyone is an expert what are some things you can look out for avoid the fake expert? Here are some questions to consider asking.

  1. Do they have integrity?
  2. What background makes them an expert in their area?
  3. Are they willing to admit any shortcomings?
  4. Do they listen?
  5. Do they ask great questions?
  6. Do they know your business or are they willing to learn it?
  7. Are they just selling a canned solution?

If you want to know more, contact AimCFO – Contact

As always, your comments are welcomed.


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