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I’ve been thinking about all of the areas I have a reasonable amount of knowledge in.  When I go through this list I realize that I’m really more a generalists than a specialist.  I have a strong working knowledge in literally everything a private business owner is likely to experience during their life.

My knowledge in some of these areas is very deep.  In others it’s broad and I’ve learned where to turn for help when my clients want to work in these areas.  Its important to know where I have strong competence and where another specialist can provide a better outcome than I.

How do you know you’re working with a generalist?  A generalist will be able to intelligently discuss many areas that are important in your life.  They often will a have what I call a generalist designation like CFP® (Certified Financial Planner) or CPA (Certified Public Accountant).  Generalists can also be a family doctor, general law practitioner, or a general consultant or counselor. 

The better generalists are curious.  You will find that they often read very broadly, engage others in a variety of conversations and attend continuing education classes in a wide variety of topics.  This certainly is a good description of me.  I generally read about 75 books a year, attend five to ten conferences on different topics and look for new things to learn.

Since most of my curiosity is around different areas of interest to a private business owner I’m a good generalist for these people to use.

What a specialist can bring.  Specialist can make magic.  If they’re highly competent they can help provide an outcome that a generalist could only dream about.  A specialist spends a significant amount of time, (usually over 10,000 hours) honing their craft. 

If you have a big problem or opportunity, you want to use a specialist.  Although they often cost more; in the end you’ll likely have a better outcome.

What if your generalists think they can do everything?  I see this a lot.  This often occurs when the generalist is afraid or doesn’t really understand the value a specialist brings to the engagement.  This is why I believe clients always need to stay in charge of all professional relationships. 

Sometimes the line between needing a generalist and specialist is a narrow one.  When working on a specific project, if your generalist hasn’t recommended a specialist, you might want to ask if one is appropriate.  I found this was a great thing to do when going through my cancer treatment.

What if your specialist doesn’t know when to bring in another specialist or your generalist?  This is where client’s staying in control of their situation is really important.  If you believe your specialist is going outside their area of expertise, you need to remind them about the role you’re asking them to play in your plans or projects.

I’ve written many times about collaboration with clients.  I believe that clients need to understand what they’re doing and why a particular project is important.  This understanding allows you (the client) to remain in control of what’s going on around you.  And, in my belief this is very important.

What about you, have you thought about how to use advisors around you well?

Josh Patrick

I’ve put together a report on The 7 Myths of the Private Business Owner.  I encourage you to click on the button below to download the report.  If you’re an advisor to a private business, you can learn some land mines to avoid.  If you own a business, you will learn some of the misconceptions that your advisors may have about you and your business.



Securities and Investment Advisory Services offered through NFP Securities, Inc. (NFPSI), Member FINRA/SIPC. Stage 2 Planning Partners and NFPSI are not affiliated.

This article is published for residents of the United States only.  Registered Representatives and Investment Adviser Representatives of NFP Securities, Inc. may only conduct business with residents of the states and jurisdictions in which they are properly registered.  Therefore, a response to a request for information may be delayed.  Not all of the products and services referenced on this site are available in every state and through every representative or advisor listed.

Topics: business relationship management, specialists, collaboration with clients, certified financial planner, certified public accountant, professional relationships

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