With the complexity of running a business today, the importance of having sound advice is paramount. It does not matter how large or small your business is, you need a strong network of business professionals around you. Most of these partners can be chosen through referrals from business owners you know and trust. Here are the “Big Five” I recommend:
1. CPA or Accountant
With the complexities in the tax codes and corporate structures, navigating through the tax system can be daunting. Your CPA or accountant will report your income for tax purposes and should be one of your most important trusted financial advisors. As your business grows and the need for capital becomes part of that growth, the importance of a knowledgeable accountant is paramount. The presentation of your financial condition can make the difference in obtaining financing and not. This is also applies to working with new vendors, obtaining bonding, selling shares and other financial situations. In many cases, accountants function as a companies bookkeeping back office.
Starting with the process of incorporating, a smart business attorney should be at your side. There are a host of business events where you will need a business attorney, like negotiating a contract, purchasing a building, dealing with personnel legal issues, purchasing or selling a business, dealing with laws of other states and even countries. Laws in today’s business environment are complex; this is a partner that can’t be left out.
Choosing a banker that understands business is not easy. Many banks have centralized this segment so finding the face to face interaction takes some doing. There is expertise out there. The nice part about this partner is the advice is free. Don’t wait until you need a loan; make it your business to establish a relationship with a banker that can be a part of your professional team.
4. Insurance Agent
Having the proper insurance in place is another important part of doing business. Having an agent that understands how to service the needs of business owners is important. There are many forms of insurance that differ from those for individuals. Don’t just assume your agent has that expertise. You can ask your other partners such as your CPA or accountant, banker or attorney for a referral. Like other facets of your business, your insurance needs change as your business changes.
5. Small Business Development Centers
These centers are funded by the SBA or local government agencies. The benefit of having them as a business partner is their ability to work through government programs. You might be eligible for grants, tax abatements and other funds, all based on where your business is located, what your company does, how many employees, etc. They can also help you write a business plan, complete projections, etc. The beauty of this partner is they are also free. Being a business owner requires making a lot of decisions. Make sure you have the right people on your team to give you the insight and expertise you need to make the right decisions for you business.