One good piece of advice for any business owner is to put together a team of advisers.
The best team is a group of experienced business and professional people that you can rely on for honest advice.
The exact makeup of your team will depend on your type of business and your experience as a business owner. Generally, you will need a group of professionals: an attorney, accountant, insurance broker, business lender and financial planner.
Other key players will include friends and family members with solid business backgrounds. People you can trust to tell it like it is, especially if they think you’re heading in the wrong direction.
You may also want a professional coach or volunteer business mentor.
Make sure to interview your potential advisers. If something doesn’t feel right on a gut level, thank the person for his or her time and find another adviser.
Your advisers will be the brain trust that helps you start and grow your business. They will be the people you turn to when you run into a question you can’t quite answer. Is this legal? What are the financial ramifications? Do I really need more insurance?
In a perfect world, business owners would have their team of advisers in place from the beginning. They would avoid mistakes like signing a commercial lease without having it reviewed, or forming a partnership with a handshake instead of an agreement.
It is never too late to put these key advisers in place. Your team of advisers can help educate and protect you from things you never would have considered.
For example, we frequently see people who decide to form single-member limited liability companies (LLC) on their own. They go online, submit some forms and pay a fee to the state.
When we ask if they have an operating agreement, we get blank stares and looks of confusion. They don’t understand the valuable protection an operating agreement provides a single-member LLC from creditors and from attacks or attempts to pierce the corporate veil, assuming the operating agreement is followed.
Organizations like Vistage International suggest that business owners take one day each month to work on their business, not in it. They form groups of 12-16 members who get to know each other, teach each other, and learn important lessons from each other.
You have options. You can start with a mentor who can help you find answers to difficult business questions. He or she can help you build your own team of business advisers. Each adviser you select will have a wealth of knowledge that they will be more than willing to share.
I was invited to speak to a group of Vistage members a while back. They told me that they had been meeting together one day each month for 25 years, and then they shared the return on their investments. When they first met, they all owned midsize companies. Twenty-five years later, their companies all had more than $1 billion in sales each year and they credited each other for their success.
• For help with starting or growing your business, request a mentor from Kitsap SCORE.