I’d like to tell you two stories. One has a sad ending, the other a happy ending.

Perhaps let’s get the sad ending out of the way. It is a story that relates to my father.

Having been made redundant from his well-paid job as a pension provider, my father joined in partnership with a local financial adviser. When his erstwhile partner retired a few years later, my father found himself self employed and working from home.

In those days receiving commission from products that were sold was the only way of getting paid, and for a few years things went well. In the early 1990s, however, recession struck, and my father fortunes waned.

Unbeknownst to the family, things got pretty bad. But it came to a head when an investment plan he had set up for an old lady – an inheritance tax scheme which would reduce the tax due on her estate buy some £40,000 – was cancelled by her nephew, who had seen the commission payment. The irony was, of course, that by cancelling the investment during the cooling off period in order to stop my father getting commission, the nephew cost himself £40,000 in tax.

My father, however, had already spent the commission, using it to pay off mortgage arrears. Receiving a demand to repay the commission was the final straw. He finally admitted everything to my mother, and then me and my brother were informed.

Seek help when help is needed

What could he have done differently? Leaving aside the commission payment model (which was a direct motivator for me charging time when I set up my own financial planning practice), the biggest thing I wish he had done differently was to talk to someone. The family would have been able to support him, maybe even give some guidance. For my mother, the fact that he did not share his troubles with her left her bitter for many years.

My father went bankrupt soon after. They lost the house, and ended up living in a flat for the rest of their lives. If I’m honest, my father was never the same man, although we all continued to love him dearly.

To lighten the mood, let us talk about my friend which we will call Pete. Along with his business partner, Pete ran a successful business. Like many partnerships I have noticed over the years, Pete was the creative, where as his partner was the driver – some may have described him as being rather arrogant. Pete and I would often talk about business, however his partner was not the type to listen to advice.

It’s good to talk

One day, I received a call from Pete, who was in a bit of a panic. His partner had done something stupid, and Pete did not know what to do.

We talked, and this alone seemed to calm Pete down. After a while, however, a thought occurred to me, and I asked Pete if there was a share agreement in place. He confirmed that there was, and I pointed out that it was very possible that his partner’s mistake could mean forfeiture of his shares.

This turned out to be the case, and, many years later, Pete continues to run a thriving business.

The point of these two stories is simply to show the difference that can be made by seeking help. The mere act of talking to someone can help clarify thoughts, whether or not they unveil any ideas you can use.

By the time my father asked for help, it was too late. For Pete, who reached out for support the moment he was in trouble, just having someone to talk to helped him to clear his head.

The role of a business coach is to provide an environment in which you can sweep away the clutter and complications of a situation and of life. It provides a pathway to clear thinking which can make a huge difference to your future direction.

Chris Budd is an associate coach of Quiver. He has written several books, and specialises in coaching owners. He writes and talks widely on succession planning having sold his own business to an Employee Ownership Trust in 2018.

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Photo by Sebastian Voortman from Pexels