Professional advisors are essential to small business success. Your team of professional advisors should include a lawyer, a tax accountant, and ideally a consultant or mentor experienced in small business ownership. They can provide knowledge and expertise in areas which you have little experience. They will round out your management so that your business is operating most efficiently, with minimal risks and good, sound information. It is important to recognize when it is necessary to call in an expert to assist you.
Because of the costs associated with hiring a lawyer or accountant, some business owners are inclined to try the do-it-yourself approach. This can be a shortsighted decision and detrimental to your business. For instance, the person who processes his or her own income tax return rather than hiring a tax accountant may miss out on small business tax exemptions that could save much more than the cost of the accountant’s time. Or a person who signs a lease or a contract without having it reviewed beforehand by a lawyer may regret it for many years to come.
You should be very selective in your screening process. The right selection will enhance your prospects for profit and growth; the wrong selection will be costly in terms of time, money and stress.
There are many factors you should consider when selecting advisors. For example, the person’s professional qualifications, experience in your specific area, and the fee for services are factors you will want to consider. It is helpful to prepare a list of such questions, plus others relating to your specific needs, and pose these to each of the prospective advisors. Some people may feel awkward discussing fees and qualifications with a lawyer, for instance, but it is important to establish these matters at the outset before you make a decision to use that person’s services.
The most common selection criteria include qualifications, experience, compatible personality, confidence and competence in the area concerned, and fees. Having a comparison of a least three advisors is the ideal approach before you select the one for your needs
Before you entrust an advisor with your work, you will want to know that he or she has the appropriate qualifications. These may include a lawyer’s or accountant’s professional degree, a university degree in the area of expertise, or some other professional training relative to the area of work.
It is very important to take a look at the advisor’s experience in the area where you need assistance. Such factors as the degree of expertise, the number of years’ experience as an advisor, and percentage of time spent practicing in that area is critically important. The amount of reliance you are going to place on their advice and insights is obviously related to the degree of experience they have in the area. For example, the fact that a lawyer might have been practicing law for ten years does not necessarily mean that the lawyer has a high degree of expertise in the area on which you are seeking advice. Perhaps only 10% of the practice has been spent in that specific area. It would be prudent to have a benchmark of at least 50% of the practice time in the area of law of your need. An accountant who has had 15 years of experience in small business accounting and tax advice will certainly provide you with a depth of expertise about small business in general. If that accountant also has specialized experience in your industry, this is an additional factor that could assist you. Enquire about the degree of expertise and length of experience in the specific area. If you don’t ask the question, you won’t be given the answer that may make the difference between mediocre and in depth advice.