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How to Build a Circle of Trusted Advisors to Help your Business

As a business attorney, I tell clients they should have a trusted “kitchen cabinet” of professionals to go to for advice: attorney, accountant, insurance agent and financial planner. It is nice to know someone and feel comfortable before you have a problem. Yet, finding a trustworthy professional in these fields can be daunting. How can you find reputable professionals and develop a relationship?

Word-of-mouth referrals are the most powerful. Ask other business owners, friends, church members and colleagues who they use and why. If you already have a trusted insurance agent or accountant, ask them for referrals for the other professionals. You can also meet many professionals at business networking groups. This is nice because you will be able to observe their personalities and learn a little about them in an informal setting.

Then do some research.

For professionals who are licensed by a state regulatory board, (the State Bar for attorneys, a Board of CPA Examiners, the Insurance Commission for insurance agents, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for financial planners or brokers), it is wise to make sure your advisor is currently licensed.

Many professionals will have a website listing their area of expertise, practice philosophy, education, etc., although insurance agents tend to have fairly generic sites featuring one of the companies they represent. Look through the site and see if their philosophy and geography mesh with yours. I also conduct an online search to see if the professional has been in the news, has been published, is active in the community, etc. They may have a blog with interesting information that helps you know them better.

Call and set up an introductory meeting with your potential professional. Ask ahead of time if there is a fee for this. At that meeting, you will want to ask about what services are offered, how they are priced, what payment terms are offered, and who will actually be doing your work. Make sure you understand how you will be billed.

And after you find advisors, make sure you use them. They can’t help you if you don’t talk to them about what is going on with your business.

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