You’re an entrepreneur for a few reasons: You want to make money, you want to make a difference, or want to control your own destiny. The main reason, though, is because you just feel a drive to do it and that drive consumes you. You are, as Michael O’Neal from The Solopreneur Hour would say, unemployable–you can only work for yourself.
It’s that drive and tenacity that’s going to make you successful.
But you also want to make sure you’re under control so that you don’t drive yourself into a ditch. These five people will help you manage and focus your drive so you can find success (and keep it):
1. A Business Attorney
It probably seems self-serving to put an attorney first on the list, since I am one, but … well, no, you’re right; it is self-serving. Nevertheless, a business attorney is definitely on the list.
It’s important for you to understand how an attorney will help you and how they will not.
Let’s start with what an attorney will not do. An attorney is generally not going to help you make money directly. Although they can help you get money (through assistance with funding or litigation), they are not out there selling your product or service to the world. So, unless your business model dictates otherwise, your attorney is not going to be a profit center.
Instead, the purpose of having a business attorney is to help you avoid common mistakes that you lose siginicant amounts of money or opportunities. These common mistakes include failing to follow applicable laws, failing to have appropriate agreements in place, or failing to adequately protect assets. Many businesses set themselves up for disaster by overlooking the basic legal issues that an attorney can help you identify. Plus, once identifying these issues, your attorney can help you address the issue in a way that is best for you.
Related Post: The 7 Legal Issues Business Owners Will Face
2. An Accountant/CPA
An accountant is going to help you make good decisions with your money and, perhaps more importantly, about taxes. Unless you really love paying taxes, you’re going to want to have someone on your team who can help you minimize your tax burden. And you definitely don’t want fail to pay taxes that you have to pay. That can be problematic (ie: you may have to flee the country).
You should also talk to a CPA when making a decision about your business structure. People generally say that having the pass-through taxation allowed by the S-Corp or LLC is the best way to go. But that’s not always true. Although a C-Corp has the dreaded double-taxation, there are at least some instances where it can actually result in a better tax situation.
Ultimately, your CPA will help you keep as much money as possible while staying compliant with your tax obligations.
3. A Banker
Having an actual relationship with your banker can be a big advantage. First, they hold your money. Don’t you want to know the person that is holding your money? Secondly, they have access to money and may be able to get that money to you. One thing bankers consider when they are extending credit or providing a loan is the character of the person applying for the funds. If your banker knows your character–that you are a person of integrity who will not stiff them–this can result if more favorable loans or lines of credit. Third, your banker is typically going to have a good number of connections in your community or industry. If you have a relationship with your banker, you may get some quality referrals out of it.
4. An Insurance Agent
Like your attorney, an insurance agent is going to help protect you from losing money. Ideally, your attorney can help you manage your legal liabilities, but you can’t escape all liability. That’s where insurance comes into play. There are seemingly countless types of insurance coverage you can purchase. A good insurance agent is going to help you find the coverage that makes the most sense for your business (and budget). Plus, if you have a good relationship with your insurer, they are going to make sure that you understand exclusions and limits on your policies. They aren’t going to want to be in the situation of explaining why the policies they provided to you won’t work.
5. A Mentor or Coach
If there’s one thing I know about myself, it’s that I’m horrible at self-assessment. Trust me, I took a self-assessment that told me that. We all have blind spots when it comes to our bahavior. You will encounter strange and unfamiliar situations. You may want a second opinion or someone to watch your back. You might want help reaching the “next level”–whatever that means. A good mentor or coach can help you with these things.
When you’re out meeting these people, remember that you get to choose who you do business with. Work with people you like and trust. If you don’t, find people you do. Also, remember that although these people are professionals, they are only giving advice. It’s ultimately your business and your decision what to do.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite passages from the Lord of the Rings, Fellowship of the Ring, Chapter 3: “Three is Company.” Here, Frodo has already been given the weighty task of taking the One Ring to Rivendell. What’s more, he has realized that there are Black Riders on the prowl. So, Frodo and his fellow hobbit companions are feeling very much afraid. To their relief, they see a group of elves traveling through the woods. Elves, in case you don’t know, are known having much wisdom. Frodo asks the leader of this group, Gildor, for some advice. I believe Gildor’s response and advice is appropriate for small business owners as well:
“Advice is a dangerous gift, even to the wise from the wise, and all courses may run ill…. If you demand advice, I will for friendship’s sake give it…take such friends as are trusty and willing.”
So it is with your small business. These professionals will give you advice and guidance that should help, but always remember that you are responsible for your actions and decisions. At the same time, you don’t have to go it alone, you should have a support group of trusty and willing companions for your small business journey. These 5 people should help.