The Curse Of Co-Dependency

Somewhere along the line, the striking similarity among the symptoms and problems we have seen, and the complaints and frustration we have heard, during every one of over 1,300 in-person interviews we have conducted with private business owners, we coined the phrase The Curse Of Co-dependency™. And the name has stuck.

Unfortunately, we have not worked with 1,300 plus private business owners. We have only worked with approximately 5% of them and most often, we only are asked to help when a significant life, financial and/or business event has occurred. Only in crisis do even the best-of-the-best have the motivation and guts to face facts and make the tough decisions needed to realize their value.

Here’s why: Practically every single business owner has been conditioned to believe in the infallibility of the advice they receive from their legal and accounting advisors.

It starts with the suggestion that private business owners are best served by sticking to what they do best… making money.

“We’ll take care of your accounting,” says the accountant, “Because that’s what we do best.”

“And we will take care of your legal needs,” says the lawyer, “Because that’s what we do best.”

Ah, a perfect world where everyone is doing what they do best.

For a business owner, struggling to navigate the challenges and capture the opportunities presented by his or her business and market, the thought of having nothing to worry about in accounting and legal matters is like a highly addictive drug. It makes them feel good even while their world crumbles around them.

The enablers keep handing it out, year after year until the client – the user – can’t take any more. And, along the way, the accountant and lawyer, who have always believed their own story – no bad faith there – become increasingly enabled, reinforced by trusting clients who never question the validity, let alone utility of the advice they give.

Until… well, like Neil Young says,
“I’ve seen the needle and the damage done
A little part of it in everyone
But every junkie’s like a settin’ sun…”

In this instance, retained earnings, and shareholder loans are the crack cocaine of co-dependency. And, fatuitous buy-sell agreements, un-fundable succession plans, and hypothetical business evaluations are the opiates.

Looking at the issue from a slightly less toxic angle, accountants and lawyers are in effect telling their clients that they know the landscape the private business owner must navigate. They say, “Take my hand and I’ll lead the way.”

Unfortunately, the fact is traditional advisors do not lead their clients through the difficult terrain every business owner must at times navigate. They don’t even know how to find the terrain, let alone navigate through it! Instead, they walk their clients around a little, familiar compound built almost entirely of fictional fortifications and defences. All while trying to ignore the growing calamity that will eventually overrun their fantastic co-creation.

These advisors are not business owners and have no way of knowing what it is like to be one.

The ironic thing is, when the shit does hit the fan, the accountant and lawyers stand to make more money. The very problems caused by The Curse Of Co-dependency™ are the ones traditional advisors insist are opportunities for their wisdom to shine through and save the day. (Is it simply ironic, or is it also a cynical manipulation of the most productive, valuable sector within the western world’s economy?)

Oh, and unlike the private business owner who succumbs to their addiction, the advisor survives because their addiction has deep, powerful institutional support. They do their best, but when a client fails, they simply move on to the next client.

Find a map and go cold turkey

There is only one remedy. As a private business owner, you must hold yourself accountable for understanding why you are getting the advice you receive and what all the implications could be should you choose to accept that advice.

You need to ask, “Will doing these things help me achieve my goals?” And, when the answer casts doubt on the advice you are considering, do not compromise; do not say, “Oh, well, I guess the experts know what is and what isn’t possible.” Do not compromise your goals, your value and the value of your business based on advice driven by irrelevant considerations of what is common practice, acceptable for most and applicable to none.

Recognizing co-dependency

Some of you – in particular the private business owners who are not yet feeling the effects of The Curse Of Co-dependency™ because you are not being forced to deal with a significant event – this essay may seem like nothing much more than a rant by someone who has it in for competing advisors. Nothing could be further from the truth.

When PROCORP engages a client, we work closely with all of your advisors after we have helped you understand what must be done. We give you the knowledge and help you exercise your power to do what you do best… we help you take charge and lead ALL of your team. You know what needs to be done and you direct your advisors to do it.

Playing a true leadership role in all your advisory relationships is the opposite of being co-dependent.

Broadly speaking, a co-dependent relationship is made up of two half-persons attempting to create one whole person. Each of them looks to the other for what he or she needs. They stick together like glue. The focus is always on the other person. And, when one doesn’t get what they need, they try to control each other, blame their problems on each other, and expect the other person to always behave in certain ways to meet their needs. Here’s the real kicker: because each is focused on the other, both are able to avoid looking at themselves. The focus is always outward, not inward and there is no accountability taken for self-development.

One of our most fundamental principles is empowerment, not enablement and co-dependency. By providing real coaching that says, “We’re going to get you up and out of here as fast as we can”, we empower you to delegate effectively instead of seceding your leadership role and responsibilities to the specialists.

What do you aspire to?

One final thought to wrap this essay up is the concept of aspiration. At once deeply personal and publicly realized, a private business owner’s aspirations for themselves, their business, family, and the contribution they make to all those around them are the catalyst to the achievement of great things.

The Curse of Co-dependency™ is the rust that never sleeps (thanks again Neil!) as it forces compromise after compromise and eats away at your aspirations. Only when you can recognize the long-standing pattern of dependency and throw it over for true independence will you be able to permanently, fundamentally change your personal definition of success and your internal sense of purpose, confidence and power. And, in doing so, permanently change the meaning, impact and value of your business.

A last thought… why wait until a crisis occurs? Click here to get started today

Forward to colleagues, advisors and friends

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