Some time ago, a client called me to apologize for not taking my advice on a deal that ultimately went bad for her.
“Alright” she said. “Let’s get this over with. Tell me you told me so.”
“No,” I said. “We discussed the risks, you considered my advice very carefully and then you made your own decision.”
A rep’s judgment should never in itself become a substitute for your own judgment. As between the rep and you, you alone will likely have to live with the consequences.
Most big decisions in this business (and in life) are a crap shoot; there’s rarely a bright line to follow. However, there are a few things you can do to increase the odds in your favor.
1. Surround yourself with smart people of good will (that’s by far the hardest part). Look up the word “supportive.” It doesn’t mean working with reps who are yes men and it doesn’t mean silencing their dissent. However, it does mean ensuring that your reps are acting in your – not in their or someone else’s – best interests. See e.g., Iago in “Othello” or more apropos, Sammy in “What Makes Sammy Run?”
2. Actively seek out your reps’ counsel. Don’t assume their silence means that they approve. They might just be inattentive, lazy or misunderstand their role in the decision making process. If so, go back to step #1. Consider the risks, benefits and alternatives that they provide (as well as your own take).
3. Then and only then make up your own mind.
And if you screw up against your reps’ best advice, that’s OK. Everyone screws up at some point. But your reps better still be there for you to help clean up the mess. That, and their good counsel is what you pay them for.
Of course, if anyone doubts that, just tell them I told you so.