As a child, whenever I made a decision based on what my friends wanted, my parents said to me: “If they told you to jump off a cliff, would you?” If I have a parachute, yes, I would! That was my “smart” response the first time they asked (let’s just say I dumbed it down from that juncture).
Through the years, when I found myself in precarious situations, I often remembered that exchange and its consequences. If you know me, you know I avoid conflict at all costs—so I knew not to use that adage with my kids. God only knows how the debate would have ensued. For some unknown reason, every new generation seems to be just a bit “smarter.”
On the topic of parachutes, there’s a classic joke that comes to mind from time to time.
A genius, a CEO, and a Boy Scout are on a plane (wait…wasn’t the CEO also the genius?).
The pilot enters the cabin and says, "I am terribly sorry, but the plane is going to crash and we only have three parachutes. I have a wife and two young children at home who need me." He picks up a parachute, puts it on, and jumps out of the plane.
The genius then says, "Well, since I am the smartest person in the world, my death would be a huge loss for mankind. I simply must survive." He quickly follows after the pilot.
The CEO then looks at the Boy Scout and says, "Well…I have been a successful businessman. Never had time to marry, much less for children, but everything on my Dream Board has been checked off. You have your whole life ahead of you, so take the last parachute and jump!"
The Boy Scout takes a deep breath and says to the CEO, "No problem, mister, we can both survive—the genius took my backpack." (ba-dum-tsh)
In a literal sense, everyone is familiar with the meaning and purpose of a parachute. Collins Dictionary defines it as: a device which enables a person to jump from an aircraft and float safely to the ground…. 🪂
In business, there are a few different and distinct concepts. One, which is what most are familiar with, stems from a form of corporate nepotism. The other is an agreement drawn out for CEOs and upper executives—known to many as the golden parachute. It is often referenced in mergers and acquisitions. One other, still, originated from an employment and career book entitled, What Color Is Your Parachute?
We won’t go over any of those. What we will be taking a closer look at is the term parachute as it relates to a consulting or advisory role. For instance, a professional with knowledge and experience in a specialized field, brought into a business to provide objective, unbiased, and strategic thinking, can also be called a parachute.
Photo credit: The Hollywood Reporter
Relatedly, this reminds me of the roles that George Clooney and Anna Kendrick played in the movie Up in the Air (not to be confused with Disney-Pixar’s Up) as parachutes for the company that hired them—albeit Clooney and Kendrick’s characters were personally to do the dirty work and terminate company employees.
As opposed to the air of finality predominantly flowing through and through in the film, IRL hiring an advisor could be like a breath of fresh air for your business. Sometimes, it simply makes good business sense to seek guidance from experienced men and women with no skin in the game or dog in the fight.
With so much available in the form of business coaching, leadership consulting and mentoring, it is baffling to many why more business owners forego the many benefits of their expertise and sound perspectives.
Perhaps you have been considering it—but your concern is what others might think—that you don’t have a handle on things. Let me encourage you to set yourself free of those types of thoughts or feelings right here, right now. Seeking help is courageous, responsible, and even caring. It is not a sign of fault or failure.
What are some reasons why businesses hire advisors? That could be business-specific, but let’s go over a few.
- Strategy – As a new business would seek guidance to set up metrics (net profit margin, sales revenue, etc.) in order to reach its goals and objectives, an advisor or consultant can come in periodically, to review and assess existing strategies to help ensure they are being followed and met.
- Optimization – When good is not good enough, and you want better, or even best, a consultant can help find solutions that maximize the three Ps: performance, production and profit, while minimizing the cost in production of your goods and/or services.
- Independence – According to Consultancy.org, “unlike a permanent employee, who may be subject to the internal ‘politics’ of an organization, consultants bring an independent perspective to their work.” What’s more, with no payroll taxes, health benefits, or equipment costs to pay out, this investment couldn’t get any better.
- Change – A business can enter a stagnant phase. When this occurs, it is probably the best time for an advisor to evaluate where change is needed. In spite of any resistance they could potentially be faced with, the experienced business person can offer an objective look into past, present, and foreseeable issues that can leverage significant change.
In a typical corporate environment or business, there is an abundance of consulting firms to fit your needs, likes, and wants. When it comes to a home-based business, things change just a bit, but those people in your lineage or team who have more experience and sustained success could also be your parachute. In network marketing or direct sales, your upline is typically the one to fit this role.
Meeting with top leaders in your organization whom you trust is more than important. They are best postured to guide you through decision-making processes and tailor a course of action that is suitable for you, and them, because in all truth—when it comes to network marketing—their skin is also in the game.
So in bringing to memory Ps that compose a phrase you probably know by heart: proper planning prevents poor performance, prior to that all-important meeting or series of appointments, there are key actions you can take.
Here are just five practical tips.
1. Ask for a list. You want to be prepared from the jump, so sixty days in advance of your initial meet-up, email your advisor asking him/her for a list of things that you can gather and/or have responses for ready. This will ensure that not only you, but any business partners or executives have sufficient time to prepare.
2. Make a list. If you’re a Type A, keep reading along—your list of important questions is probably already completed while you’re reading this. 😆 All others are encouraged to make your lists ASAP. No time to write it down? NP; enable dictation aka voice to text in your Notes app so you can add to your list as things come to mind.
3. Collect useful data. Do you remember the old business saying: we cannot effectively manage what we cannot efficiently measure? Even if this couldn’t be applied to things we manage on a day-to-day which cannot be measured with regard to people, it still holds truth in some cases. Hence, ahead of “grabbing a hold” of your parachute, get together with influential and trusted people in your business in order to collect reports from internal audits, surveys, or reviews. Also, write down important feedback. Even when the feedback may be perceived as negative, or not what you expected, you should still objectively weigh it in.
4. Record a video. When time is of the essence, you may not be able to afford unnecessary expenditure of your time or his/hers, for that matter. It is vital you briefly connect with your parachute at both onset (the welcome) and end (the thank you for your service), but there’s no reason to be present throughout. Depending on your particular situation or need, that’s where a recorded video, or two, could be instrumental to walk your advisor through important information. The extra perk with a video is that you can review and edit as necessary; quashing all distractions and avoiding the need to skate around issues or to improvise.
5. Cater. This is as good a time as any to practice the Golden Rule by providing top-of-the-line food and drinks for your advisor. Think of it as a great investment. Moreover, neither assume they would be pleased with hot or cold drinks from a popular coffeehouse, nor worry that s/he will judge your extravagant spending habits. Contacting his/her personal assistant (in confidentiality) to find out what their likes and dislikes, or any food allergies might be will be favorable. And, as far as spending is concerned, that usually falls on your bookkeeper or finance guy or gal—not a problem.
In case you feel suspended in the air right now, one thing’s for sure, a parachute could very well save you from a tragic fall. It could be the lifeline in making the next jump safely and securely.
Your parachute can steer you and offer a fresh form of reference in assessing your overall operations; possibly from a similar angle to how an investor would. So make the jump and pull the cord in time. We wish you a smooth, happy landing and vast success!
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