Chartered accountant Ruby McGregor-Smith CBE has been chief executive of FTSE 250 company Mitie Group since 2007. Already with myriad awards and accolades behind her – including being named one of the Top 50 Women in World Business by the FT and Forbes – she has now been nominated for a life peerage for her business achievements and her work as chair of the Women’s Business Council. Here, using insights gained from both her accountancy and CEO experience, Ruby defines a brilliant professional adviser.
They build a deep connection
The most impressive professionals go that extra mile and offer bespoke, carefully thought-out advice. The best rise to the challenge of being a sounding board during big, tough decisions. Those who just provide straightforward advice with no extra engagement can never be what I really want – a genuine partner.
Great professionals make the effort to get on well with others, too. In the outsourcing industry we often remind ourselves that people work with people they like, at every level of an organisation. You don’t build a big, successful business without huge amounts of mutual support and respect. Top quality professionals try to become an integral part of their client’s organisation.
They care about their client like they would a friend
The best professionals care about your organisation and think hard about your business, even when they’re not involved in the transaction. They are always there at the end of the phone if you need them. They touch base to check everything is OK.
The best professionals constantly build client relationships even when there’s nothing in it for them
If they see something interesting and relevant to you, they share it. The best constantly build client relationships even when there’s nothing in it for them.
They understand their client’s psyche
When pitching, it’s extraordinary how many professionals clearly haven’t taken the time to get their heads around our business, psyche and motivations. The best professionals undertake extensive research on potential new clients and, crucially, understand their values and drivers.
They show infectious enthusiasm and belief
For me, the best professionals come across as authentic while also being passionate and committed. They are driven and excited by their proposition, and make sure that comes across.
At Mitie we often meet start-ups that wow us with their clarity of belief in themselves and their business model. We love management teams who take the time and effort to think deeply about their people and products.
The best professionals are driven and excited by their proposition, and make sure that comes across
We get swept up in that excitement – it makes you want to work with them. It’s no different with professional advisers.
Finally, be humble and remember where you came from
This is general advice for all business people: have humility. As you grow in business and in your career, remember that once upon a time you were just starting out, and as you progress towards the top, your job is to help those at the beginning of their journey.
I often say to my leadership team: “Remember, once we weren’t in this position, so let’s teach people how to do it, let’s not be ego-driven. Let’s show people how to do what we’re doing so we can create a better business, so when we’re not part of this organisation we’ll know we have left it in good hands.”
That, to me, is great leadership. And it applies to professional advisers as much as it does to CEOs.