A best friend tells you when you are full of shit. She tells you ‘if you audition for American Idol, you’ll be on the blooper reel’. She also will support you when you insist on auditioning anyway.
A best friend will cheer you on when you need the encouragement to block out the haters, but he won’t simply tell you what you want to hear, he will challenge you to be better.
Over the course of my life I’ve been blessed with many best friends and they have been my rock and support. They are who I call when I’ve had a breakup, who I celebrate with when I get a promotion. They are the source of wisdom and perspective when I’ve faced difficult decisions like where to move or what new fields to look into. They help me refine the answer to the questions ‘Where am I going?’ and ‘What am I even doing with my life?’
Businesses don’t have best friends. They are surrounded on all sides by enemies so much so that they read books on war and military strategy in order to learn how to defend themselves against attack or go on the warpath themselves. I’ve spent my time on the MBA and before as an independent consultant trying to figure out why a company would hire a consulting firm.
At first I thought it was for liability protection, as in ‘if this plan fails we can blame it on the consultants and I can keep my job’. Then I thought it’s because they lack key capabilities. Both are true to an extent.
But as I’ve spent time in-house with a strategy consulting firm I think the reality is, businesses need a best friend. Someone who will tell them honestly that what they are planning is a bad idea, and if they still decide to go through with it will build a plan to succeed as best they can.
So now that I’m living in London, when I get asked the question moving forward ‘So what do you do’ I may just say that I’m business’ best friend, with all the good and bad that implies.