As a business owner, you need to leverage off all the relationships you build as your business develops. You therefore need to make smart choices between service providers to your business and advisors who go that step further to help your business grow by adding their expertise and experience. Many successful businesses have an advisory board to guide them in areas where they know they have weaknesses. However, many entrepreneurs need advice, but feel that they can’t ask for help since they’re “in charge”, so I need to start from a more basic position.
I’ll be very blunt and say you can’t afford to have:
- an accountant who simply prepares your financials, processes your BAS and takes your calls from time to time as issues arise;
- a lawyer who handles your contract needs for employment or agreements with suppliers and agencies, or who provides those nasty letters to overdue debtors;
- a financial planner who updates your insurance every few years and diversifies your superannuation to protect your nest egg; or
- regularly changing business bankers who only contact you to service your loan and sell you a new service.
I could go on, but these are probably the core of “service suppliers” to any business. If I have sketched a good representation of your relationships, then you are wasting your time and money.
You need to hire advisors who are going to look after—and out for—opportunities for your business. You are probably focused on what you do best; you should be using the benefit of your advisors’ expertise to guide and protect your business.
Your advisors must have a passion for small business and engage with you, rather than reacting to requests when you to contact them.
They must be thinking ahead. Good advisors should be acting proactively for you by:
- running workshops and seminars on innovative ideas for business growth or expense reduction;
- providing solutions to improve budgeting and sourcing business concessions;
- revamping your credit terms or systemising your data processing through “the cloud”;
- thinking years in advance on ideas to fund expansion and manage risk;
- bringing ideas from other business cases to adapt to your needs;
- analysing employment and entity structure options to cater for business growth; and
- seeking introductions to each other to develop holistic proposals benefiting from their interaction, in your best interest.
You may often not know what the next steps for business growth entail, but they, as a collective, should be able to share other clients’ experiences as stepping stones to help you negotiate the rapids.
Don’t be afraid to change. If a member of your advisory team is not up to scratch, look for an alternative. If you are not sure what you are looking for, Google “small business advice” in your suburb and seek out the small business professionals that offer case studies, blogs, networking, advice seminars, forums, checklists and other services that show they are not paper shufflers, but business professionals willing to bring more to the table than a service proposition.
Stalk them! Check them on Google, LinkedIn, their website, blog and Twitter. Also check their Professional Association to make sure they are legit.
In summary, understand what different advisors can do for you. Decide what you need from each advisor, leveraging off their strengths, and encourage them to work as a team to meet your needs.
Now the next step is to develop a Strategic Advisory Board, but that’s for another day!