Life Lessons On Finding A Good Advisor

“Jesus had 12 disciples: one doubted him, one denied him and one betrayed him. If our Lord and Savior couldn’t find good help, how do you expect me to?”
– Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago

I think about this Mayor Daley quote a lot. Like any businessperson, I have hired tremendous people, and I have hired some who didn’t quite work out. Like Jesus, I’ve been denied, doubted and betrayed, but also like Jesus, I’ve found smart and loyal people who help me get my message out.

There is not a magic formula to hiring good people. Otherwise, only good people would work and the others would be unemployed.

My bestselling book, “Life Lessons from the Lottery,” gives tips on how someone who comes into a large sum of money can manage it well.

You can translate the tips to fit any aspect of life, but where I really see people slip up is getting advice from people who don’t have a clue what they are talking about.

A longtime friend sent an email about a financial product she was going to buy and asked if she would have to pay a sales charge. Yes, a large one. Also, the product wasn’t really suited for her goals and objective.

I’m glad she called, but chided her for not calling me first. I possess world-class knowledge and, in her case, would share that knowledge for free.

In “Life Lessons from the Lottery,” I tell people to find an advisor who has worked with more money than you have. If you win a $100 million jackpot, find someone who has worked with clients who have $150 million.

You will find that the knowledge translates to whatever financial position you are in. I’ve worked with numerous millionaires and at least one billionaire and found that I have more financial tools and resources to help them than to help a young family trying to stay ahead of their bills.

It makes sense. The hardest client I have is an injured person who has a million dollars in injuries, but was hit by a drunk driver who did not have insurance. I try to maximize government benefits, but they don’t have the money to get the help they need.

Most of us have resources or don’t use them well. Getting advice is where it gets tricky.

The best way to get advice is to:
1. Find someone who has more expertise than you do.
2. Not be afraid to ask for help.
3. Follow up on the advice that you are given.

I know a lot about business, but Warren Buffett knows far more. He has more money than I do. His social network starts with the president of the United States and goes from there. I’ve read more than 50 biographies about him, but still don’t know every nuance of how he thinks.

I do business with his Berkshire Hathaway company in structured settlements, and everyone who knows him tells me he is easy to talk to. Thus, on the day when I finally meet Warren, my questions will be ready in my head. I know he has great expertise, and I want to learn from him.

Too many people ignore expertise in seeking advisors. They talk to a friend from church or a buddy from the country club. Then their pal does a mediocre job, and both the friendship and business relationship end.

If I have any kind of problem, be it medical, financial or getting my car repaired, I want the best expert I can find. We don’t have to be friends.

I’ve used the same accountant, Jimmy Webster in Lexington, for nearly 20 years. I work with him closely, but until his daughter joined Webster and Kirk as a partner, I didn’t know anything about his family or what he does outside of the office.

I just knew that he was a great accountant and charges a reasonable fee. He’s a nice man, but that has nothing to do with why I work with him

As they say in “The Godfather,” “It’s business, not personal.”

What I find interesting is that many people have true experts in their universe, but never ask for advice.

I live next door to a man who owns a large plumbing company. I didn’t want to bother him with a small problem as it seemed too trivial, and I knew he wouldn’t send me a bill.

After I spent thousands on a major problem, I wish I had knocked on his door. I know he would not have minded. I’m stunned when friends don’t ask me money questions. Acquiring and dispensing knowledge is what I live for.

If people would get advice from experts they know, life would go more smoothly.

The last part is a little tricky: Follow the expert advice you are given. I give wonderful advice that gets ignored every day. I try to get people to learn from my mistakes, and they go ahead and make the same mistakes themselves.

I was terrible about blowing off good advice. I’ve always thought I was smarter than everyone and could figure it out on my own.


I’m finally starting to learn the concept. I’m coauthoring a book called “Life Lessons from the Golf Course” that will be out April 9. When I met my coauthor, PGA professional Clay Hamrick, I made the decision to only trust him. I stopped buying golf books and videos and let him be my source for golfing advice.

As the book will show you, it worked. Clay is a wonderful teacher, and I play better golf than I ever have in my life. If I had met him when I was younger, I’d be on the PGA tour now.

I probably had good advisors around me when I was younger, but never sought their knowledge.

As Mayor Daley said, it’s hard to find good help, but, like Jesus, if you take time on cultivating good people, you can truly change the world. Or at least your own world.

Don McNay, www.donmcnay.com,  is the author of the bestselling book,  “Life Lessons From the Lottery.”