As a business owner, it is easy to suffer from the tunnel vision of focusing only on your products and services. It is the way you make a profit and stay in business. In a number of recent conversations with some successful business owners, they kept telling me about great relationships with their business advisors. It got me thinking, what are some of the most important relationships a small business owner develops?
Your CPA isn't just someone who does your taxes. S/he is there to provide you with planning advice, what accounting system to use, what corporate structure to use, retirement planning, and a host of other financial needs. Finding the right CPA can be difficult. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing your CPA. Consider someone whose client base is at least 50% to 60% businesses. This way, you know they are focused on keeping up with the litany of tax changes that occur every year. Ask your social network and other advisors who they use, why they work with them, and how long they have worked with them. Set up some time to interview a few CPAs from the list of suggestions, then get to know them and how they might be able to help you.
It seems like the number of options here are endless between large banks and credit unions. You understand your business and what you need from a financial partner. Do you need international capabilities or a vast branch network to conduct business? If so, it might be best to choose a larger bank. Are you looking for more dedicated attention from a business banker/lender? Consider a credit union. Do you plan on using technology to streamline and optimize your business? Research and understand what technology might benefit you and its associated cost. Speak with your network. Who do they use, how do they transact business, and do they have a good relationship manager? A good relationship manager can help you with all aspects of your business, deposits, lending, treasury management, and more.
Development of a long-term relationship with a legal advisor can be an essential key to the growth and success of your business. It is important to find someone who understands your type of business and its unique challenges. Often I find business owners wait until they need legal service to choose their attorney; however, this might not be the most opportune time to make that choice. It should be done ahead of time. Speak with family, friends, and business acquaintances to find who they use. Often you might find it easier to relate with a local firm or local practitioner who can take the time to explain things and understand you and your business fully.
Insurance is a key factor to reduce risk in your business. Here are some key questions to think about. Does your insurance agency specialize in business insurance? Do they understand your business and your industry enough to insure and help you manage your risk? Do they understand your assets, not just your liabilities, and vice versa? Are they able to set up an insurance program specific to your industry and your business? Will your insurance program change and grow with your business and ultimately protect you, your business and your employees?
Your financial advisor should understand how to help a business owner plan for all stages of the business cycle -- from growth to maturity, to an exit strategy and planning. Your financial advisor is not someone who just manages your investment portfolio, but someone who provides advice while working with all of your other partners. You can think of them like a quarterback, in a sense, coordinating with your team to plan for the best outcome. It is a good rule of thumb to consider someone who is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or someone in the process of becoming one. The CFP designation is a strong indicator that this person is not just an investment advisor.
Having the right mix of these advisors can help in the success of your business. Good partners can and will work together as your success is mutually beneficial. If one area of your financial relationship is lacking support, ask your other advisors whom they recommend. They know who is helping their clients the most and if that person might be able to help you.