Big corporations have departments for various aspects of their business, such as departments to handle legal, accounting, IT, and HR. They also have a board of directors to advice and vote on certain corporate activities, such as whether to take loans, buy property, offer fringe benefits, and expand into new locations and new markets. Small businesses don’t have all of these advisers on hand. They have to assemble a team of advisers that they can call upon as needed or work with on a regular basis.
The following are some team members to consider.
Your outside team of experts
As you would with any sports team, you need to assemble a business team of experts that you can use when needed. Your team should include:
- An attorney or multiple attorneys for different purposes. For example, you probably need an attorney to help you incorporate or form a limited liability company. Another attorney may be used to review contracts and agreements. Yet another attorney can assist you with protecting your intellectual property. And still another attorney can review commercial leases or help you in buying commercial property.
- An accountant. This financial expert can help you set up your books, file your tax returns, and advise you on tax and financial matters. This person may be a CPA or other tax professional.
- A banker. You probably want to cultivate a relationship with the manager at the branch with which you maintain your business bank account. This person is usually a great help in getting referrals to other experts. But keep in mind that the manager may not be the person with any say on whether you can obtain a loan if you apply for one.
- Information technology (IT) expert(s). It’s unlikely you have an IT person on staff, yet maintaining your computer system is essential to running a business. Having the right person or company to turn to for IT help is critical. If you maintain a website, you probably also need a webmaster to troubleshoot and upgrade as needed.
- Insurance agent. What type of business insurance do you need, how much coverage, and what is the best insurer for your company? An insurance agent can be help you get protection within your budget.
- Virtual assistant (VA). If you start out without any employees, you may need administrative help. This can come in the form of a virtual assistant, who is an independent contractor offering services online, such as scheduling, bookkeeping, and other tasks.
If your business is incorporated, state law requires you to have a board of directors. The board typically consists of a board chair or president, a vice chair, a board secretary, a board treasurer, and one or more other board members. A board may consist of inside members, such as the owner and other employees, or it may have outside members who are independent of the company. Public companies are required to have a certain number of outside directors on their boards. Small businesses can do what’s best for them. Consider that outside directors may be more objective and bring expertise to the table. They may also offer some networking opportunities through their connections with other businesses.
Even if your business isn’t a corporation and you aren’t required to have a board of directors, it’s a good idea to assemble a group of advisers to act as your board. Don’t know where to start? Consider using a company, such as The Alternative Board (TAB), that can provide you with an advisory board.
Mentoring is an ongoing relationship between a mentor and mentee in which the former provides guidance and advice to the latter as a person and as a business owner. Mentoring can be arranged in various ways:
- One-sided mentoring. You absorb guidance offered by experts in books, podcasts, TED talks, and other resources.
- Informal mentoring from colleagues. Those you meet in your community through your local chamber of commerce or networking groups can be helpful to you.
- Structured mentoring, such as what’s available through SCORE and WBDC.
You can learn more about mentoring from a previous blog.
As American productivity consultant David Allen says: “You can do anything but not everything.” Get the help you need from advisers and experts to make your business the success you envision.