Find a Small Business Advisor to Help with Decision Making
Find a small business advisor or advisors when you start a business. There are advisors for practically everything else such as tax law advisors, Quickbooks advisors, Windows XP upgrade advisors, Forex advisors so why not an advisor for an entrepreneur starting out in business?
For most entrepreneurs starting small, going into business for yourself will probably mean at least at the beginning that you will be spending a lot of time alone getting your company up and running. Just because you have to work alone, does not mean you have to make decisions by yourself. In fact, you shouldn’t. We suggest that you “draft” or hire a team of small business advisors. It could be a formal team, like a board of directors complete with a board of directors handbook or an informal group that you meet with singly or together to discuss your business moves.
To begin with, hire a lawyer and accountant early on before you commit to a new business (or anything else). Even if you are a lawyer, hire another lawyer. Remember that old adage: “A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client!”
This does not have to be expensive but the advice of the right lawyer and accountant is worth its weight in gold. Discuss your plans and approaches to a new business and listen to their feedback. They can recommend the best legal structure to protect you, lower your taxes and put you on a growth path. These are contacts that are a MUST for any business…new or ongoing. Once you make these contacts, you can simply call them as needed and pay for their services on an hourly basis.
How do you find the right lawyer and accountant? Your best bet is to get a recommendation from another successful business person that you trust. Another route you can take is to consult with a trustworthy relative or friend. If these avenues are not open to you, we suggest that you join a local business association and begin networking with people there.
This business association can be a group specific to the industry in which you will do business or it can be a group specific to your area. Look in the Yellow Pages of your phone book for local business groups that you may join or at least visit for a luncheon or dinner. Don’t use the Yellow Pages to pick a lawyer or an accountant. These two advisory positions within your company are far to important to be left to chance. Typically, when you find the lawyer who is right for you, he or she will be able to suggest a good accountant.
Another small busness advisor that will be crucial to you is a banker. For this small business advisor, you won’t have to pay out of pocket but you should look into a couple of banks in your area to determine who will give you the best service and, of course, the best interest rates on loans. From the business people we have spoken with over the years, they tend to prefer community type banks with bank people who have been there for years, as opposed to the giant international bank who is gobbling up all of its competitors and peopling its offices with less-than-stellar employees.
Another great small business advisor to have on your team, depending on your plans, is an experienced real estate broker. Once again, we are not talking about the inexperienced person looking to lease you the largest piece of space to make the quick buck but rather one who has worked in the market for years and can get you the best deal on space.
Next is a good, independent insurance agent. Do not get an agent who works for a specific insurance company. The job of that agent is to sell you what the company is promoting. An independent agent will know the broad market and be able to fit you with the right insurance for your business. Once again, if you join a business association specific to the industry in which you are going, you will likely find independent agents within that association that have a specialty in your business.
Depending on your situation, another key advisor can be a financial advisor but if you are just starting out in business and plowing every dollar that you can beg, borrow or steal into the enterprise, a financial advisor might have to wait. Besides, your accountant is a good financial advisor.
Depending on the business you are going into, there are others who could function as invaluable advisors and even resources for your new business. One example is if you work with product distributors, these pros will know the market like the back of their hand. They can fill you in on everything you need to know about your market.
We have found that various vendors make great small business advisors as well. These advisors might come in the form of sales people who want to sell you something or vendors who want to perform work for you. The smart business people we have spoken with have a philosophy that they have something to learn from virtually everyone and often will do as much listening as talking with these key people. If you are new to business or new to a specific industry that you will run into people who have a lot of experience and are willing to share it. In fact, they would likely be flattered if you would ask their advice on issues that concern you.
Another great resource to find a small business advisor is your local chapter of SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business.” We are continually impressed with the level of expertise available at the SCORE website and at SCORE offices. SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to educating entrepreneurs in the formation, growth and success of small business nationwide. SCORE is a resource partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). SCORE has 370 chapters throughout the United States and its territories, with 11,200 volunteers nationwide it offers a lot of advisors!
And finally, look to your own family for a small business advisor. Depending on your family and your relationship with them, this could be a barren desert or a gold mine for you. Perhaps you have relatives who have long been in business or relatives who have worked closely with entrepreneurs over the years and know the ropes.