Find business advisors you can trust

When and how to seek the right help for your company

With growth comes new challenges, including business strategy, personnel recruiting and financial management. Even choosing which benefits structures and retirement savings packages to offer can be challenging. Business owners should look to business advisors to help them navigate these issues, rather than taking a chance by tackling them alone.

No one advisor will be equipped to help in every area, so the best approach is to assemble a team of consultants — experts in their respective fields — who can guide your company toward its goals. By working with people who have business and entrepreneurial backgrounds and who can serve as coaches and mentors, you can provide your company with the resources it needs to succeed.

Finding advisors you trust

Building relationships with business advisors is crucial throughout the life of the company. Researchers found that just 20-30% of companies that go to market sell, which puts owners at a deep disadvantage for their own financial planning. If you are counting on an exit to fund your retirement years or future endeavors, you need someone who can advise you on how and when to do so for maximum returns. But advisors offer invaluable guidance on many critical business points and should be sought out early.

Cultivating a deep understanding with your advisors allows them to focus on your specific needs, which in turn ensures that you're prioritizing properly and strategizing effectively. While some business owners on tight budgets may turn to web-based options for lower-cost accounting and legal services, doing so can be a mistake. Though it may be quicker and less expensive, these services won't be able to foster the kind of close relationships that provide tailor-made advice.

A cohesive strategy requires a cohesive team. Whether you hope to exit the company in the next decade or grow the business into a family legacy, you'll need advisors who support your vision and who have the expertise and dedication to help you fulfill your long-term goals.

Take, for instance, the decision to expand your team. Are you going to hire more full-time employees or work largely with independent contractors? Depending on the nature of your business, you may have data security and privacy regulations you must adhere to, and that may influence how you structure any employment strategies. Legal and human resources advisors will be able to weigh in on what needs to be in your contracts, any certifications that must be in place for different roles and the types of benefits and protections employees are entitled to versus independent contractors. These can be difficult areas to navigate on your own, and the decisions you make are hugely consequential to your business's long-term health.

Where to look

Begin your search by vetting potential consultants and advisory firms. Ask your fellow entrepreneurs about their experiences, as well as their recommendations and cautionary tales. Why did someone fail to work out — was it a personality conflict or an ethical breach? Would they work with this person again?

Beyond word-of-mouth recommendations, you might turn to the local chamber of commerce or business associations. They may have member directories you can use to jump-start your search, as well as insights into a potential advisor's reputation and track record. Industry-specific association and certifying bodies can also be a good place to find quality consultants. Someone who seeks out professional certifications and participates in industry events demonstrates a proactive commitment to their career, and they may apply the same tenaciousness to working with your business.

Choose your advisors based on their previous successes working with other companies, as well as your shared values and vision. If you want to keep your business small and local, you don't want to partner with advisors who see it becoming a national chain.

Knowing when to bring in help

Entrepreneurs work best in partnership with financial consultants who can help them think through new strategies and critical decisions. By enlisting advisors at early critical junctures, you can make well-informed moves that set your company up for long-term, sustainable success. Be thoughtful about who you bring on board, and make sure you trust their experience, abilities and character.

The views expressed in the article are those of the author and/or person interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the views of Silicon Valley Bank, a division of First-Citizens Bank and First Citizens BancShares, Inc. The materials on this website are for informational purposes only, are subject to change and do not take into account your particular investment objective, financial situation or need. Since each client’s situation is unique, you should consult your financial advisor and/or tax planning professional before acting on any information provided herein.