Getting the right advice

Running your business means wearing several hats, but there may be some areas where you will need to get outside professional help.

If you have identified weaknesses in specific skills, you must ensure that these are covered, as this could make the difference between the success or failure of your business. Having a group of external advisers to call on – early on – can help you get your business off on the right foot.

“You need to find a professional who is prepared to look forward with the business and explore the options. For example, a company can apply for a particular type of loan and be turned down, or they could work with the bank/accountant to determine the range of options on how a funding requirement could be met,” believes Mike Herd, director at business incubator Sussex Innovation Centre.

As Herd suggests, with good information you can push the professionals to deliver more. This is where he believes specialist support organisations and peer-to-peer business networks can help.

“But see a range, not just the first one you come across. And if you find information from another source, go back and ask again,” he recommends, adding, “Individual advisers donÂ’t know everything or may not pick up all the nuances of a business on the first meeting, but a good adviser will look again.”

The more seriously you take getting the advice, the more seriously the advisers will take you. If you are an ambitious company, Herd suggests holding a beauty parade of banks, accountants and lawyers to ensure you are getting the most appropriate one for your business.

Of course, you rarely get something for nothing – advice costs money and this is where Herd sees most mistakes being made.

“Start-ups are usually looking for cheap solutions for immediate needs – and businesses are right to watch the costs in this way. But what is the value of having an accountant who each year provides you with a historical record of where you lost money, compared with someone who can look forward to help you manage your ongoing business and provide the information to maximise the potential?”

He outlines five steps that can help influence the quality of advice you receive.

Find the right accountant The fact that someone is completing your VAT returns does not mean you are getting the best out of your accountant. A fast-growing enterprise needs a financial adviser who can plan ahead and proactively suggest ways to make strategies financially possible.

Select the most appropriate professional for individual tasks A common mistake is to appoint a lawyer or accountant to handle all legal or financial matters, but it may be wiser to pick and choose specialists for different functions.

Assess your banking needs Find a service that supports the company you want to become, rather than the one you are now. See: Business bank account checklist

Work with people you like In business, it is often necessary to cooperate with individuals whom you may not like or respect. However, when seeking advice on the future of your firm, you need to ask someone you trust. Ask yourself whether they understand and have an affinity for what you are trying to achieve.

Don’t be too proud to ask for help Never see it as a failure to ask for guidance. No-one is infallible, and having people to support you can make the journey to success much smoother.

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