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Back to Basics: Your Circle of Advisors

The past couple of weeks, we’ve discussed vision and planning for your business. It is clear a successful small business needs a team of advisors, such as a business attorney, banker, financial planner, accountant, and insurance agent.

It is nice to know someone and feel comfortable before you have a problem.

How do you find these people?

Word-of-mouth referrals are the most powerful. Ask other business owners, friends, church members, and colleagues whom 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 services offered, how they are priced, what payment terms are available, and who will actually be doing your work. Make sure you understand how you will be billed. Ask if they can give you some existing clients to talk to.

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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