When you are new in business, it is easy to feel uncertain about your ability to run all aspects of the organization. You cannot possibly know everything, but it feels like you should. This is when building a strong advisor team can make the difference between making mostly smart decisions and making some damaging ones.
To know who should be on your advisory team, start with an honest assessment of your knowledge and abilities. If you are a tradesperson, who knows all about electricity, plumbing or drywall, you will need advisors to help you with business matters. If you are an attorney, you probably don’t need a business attorney, but you may need help with bookkeeping and insurance. Unless you are a financial planner, you will have a better retirement plan if you get an expert to help you.
One key element is having a relationship with these professionals. You want to have people you can call on when unexpected things occur, who know you and are familiar with your business. It may seem hard to imagine, but you will have situations arise where you need timely assistance in deciding what to do. For example, having a relationship with my banker ensured that I had all the help and support I needed to take advantage of PPP when the pandemic hit. While others were trying to figure out what to do, my banker walked me through the process step by step.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, remember that this is just like every other part of your business. You start at the beginning and add on as your business grows and your needs change. Read on to learn more about who and what you will need.
A Business Attorney
A business attorney to help you structure your business correctly. They understand all the options and will help you select the format that is best for you and the way you anticipate your business will unfold. They will also help you set up contracts to use with both clients and contractors to help you minimize your personal liability. They are also your first point of contact when dealing with letters, HR issues or any other concern that may arise.
A Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
A CPA will help you set up your business correctly from a tax perspective, which will minimize the amount of taxes you will pay. They can help you put in place good record-keeping practices and will guide you in handling common issues such as sales, state, and federal taxes. Some offer bookkeeping services, and some recommend the use of a third-party bookkeeper. They are also the people to call when you first hire people, so you get all the paperwork done and get payroll setup correctly. They will walk you through any audits or inquiries from tax organizations. They are also the ones who will help you with the financial statements in your business plan or that are required by a lender.
You are going to need a bank account. Why not establish a relationship with a banker at your financial institution? I recommend looking at different financial organizations to find the ones that are most helpful for small businesses. Ones who look for ways to make your banking relationship work in your favor. It helps to have someone you can reach out to with questions and who will recommend things that will save you money and headaches. My banker responds to emails, which means I can ask questions when I have them and get an answer, usually within 24 hours, without investing a lot of time sitting on hold.
Your business must have commercial insurance. It shocks me the number of small business owners I meet who have no insurance. Insurance protects you against the what-ifs, big and small. You’ll want an insurance agent who is well-versed in commercial policies. The right insurance agent will ask the questions necessary to ensure you get all the coverage you need – including things you won’t know to ask about. For example, at one point I owned a mini storage. My insurance agent explained that if anyone stored something that exploded (which could happen; we certainly weren’t checking what someone stored) and anyone said the word terrorism, we wouldn’t be covered unless we bought terrorism insurance. This extra coverage added $4 per year to the premium and greatly improved the coverage. I would have never thought to ask about terrorism insurance!
Build or Join a Like-minded Community
Finally, you will soon discover that being a business owner can be very lonely. Your friends and family, who have only been employees, will not understand some of the difficulties that you experience. It is wise to build a circle of friends who are business owners. When you hit a snag, someone will have been there before you. You will have a community to help, and they will help you.
If your CPA isn’t handling your books, you are likely to get to the point where you either need a staff accountant or a bookkeeping service to handle the day-to-day accounting tasks.
Group insurance agents can help you buy medical insurance for yourself and offer benefits to your employees. Not only are there tax benefits, but you will be able to attract better employees and retain them if you offer benefits. You may be surprised to know that you can have a group policy if you have only one employee besides yourself. You can also offer benefits where the employee pays all of the costs.
I think of financial planners as retirement specialist, though this isn’t everything they do. At minimum, you need to plan for your future. As your business grows, you can save a fortune on taxes by implementing the right retirement strategy for you and your employees. Often, your tax savings will nearly fund the retirement plan. Offering retirement savings is another great tool for retaining employees.
Human Resources (HR) Specialist
Before you hire employees, you need to know what is necessary from a Human Resources (HR) perspective. The initial concerns can often be addressed by your attorney or CPA – things like the paperwork to fill out to meet government regulations, how to set up payroll and what should be in your employee handbook.
As your business grows, you will need more HR support. This can be a service organization that offers HR to many companies, or you may choose to hire someone. This will ensure you know what the laws are and your company remains compliant.
Your HR support may handle hiring for you, or you may choose to have a Staffing Agency help. Staffing Agencies screen potential candidates and help you get the right fit with less effort. They can also provide temporary workers to meet seasonal needs.
Depending on your business, there are a number of specialists who may offer advice that is well worth the investment. This can include production, coaching, leadership, or any other skill that your business lacks the internal resources to handle.
I’ve mentioned both services and employees. I find that many clients struggle to hire people who know more than they do, at first. The best way to fill a gap in your knowledge is to find someone who has the information that you need and hire them to help you. It is neither practical nor realistic to think you can learn everything yourself. Surround yourself with expertise and watch your business experience healthy growth!