In This Episode

One of the key success factors in running and growing a small business is surrounding yourself with good advisors.  Talk with any small business owner and they are likely to have all or most of the following “advisors” helping their business: accountant, attorney, insurance, payroll/HR, banker, financial planner, marketing, and business coach/consultant.  But how do you know if you have the right advisors for your business?

The first step is getting your mindset right.  This right mindset starts with you admitting you don’t know everything and accepting that you don’t need or want to know everything as a business owner.  There aren’t enough hours in the day.  We’ve met too many small business owners who stay small because they’re trying to be the “expert” in all facets of their business or they are too short sighted and too cheap to invest in good advice or they simply aren’t willing to accept help from outsiders.  You’ve got to be open to getting help from folks if you want to grow and succeed.

So assuming you get past this step, the question then becomes how do you know you have the right advisors for you?  Notice we didn’t say have “good” advisors but the “right” advisors.  Here are some things to consider whether you’re assessing your current team of advisors or looking for some new ones:

  • Attitude: does your advisor make you feel like they really enjoy what they’re doing? Do you feel like you’re getting their best effort or just enough to get the job done?  Do they really seem to care about you and your business or are they just collecting a paycheck?  Take a similar approach to hiring advisors that you would take when looking to hire an employee to join your company.  Think about how many problems those employees with bad attitudes can cause (or have been causing) for your business.  Why would you want the same bad attitudes advising you?
  • Responsiveness: do you constantly get crickets when reaching out to your advisors? Does it take days or weeks for them to respond to you?  Or do they get back to you in realtime?  With all of the connectivity these days it’s pretty easy for folks to be available and responsive, certainly within a 24-hour period.
  • Values: this is one of the biggies that many people miss. It helps to have folks in your corner who value many of the same things you do.  For instance, if you’re all about showering love and praise and all kinds of benefits onto your team and your advisor is more of a “just do the bare minimum” as it relates to your team then chances are you’re going to have more arguments and disagreements than good discussions.  Or if you’re a “do it by the book/letter of the law” person who doesn’t even want to step into those gray areas that exist and your advisor likes to push the envelope on what’s possible or ways to interpret different statutes or laws then you’re likely not going to work well together.  If you’re interviewing new advisors be prepared with some questions for them based on situations you’ve experienced in the past and see how they would guide you in that scenario.
  • Real World Guidance: is your advisor someone who quotes you laws and statutes or do they sprinkle in real world guidance based on either their personal experience or those experiences of their clients? One of the biggest frustrations we’ve seen with small business owners is getting the real scoop on how things work at times.  Your advisor should be able to give you some guidance on what the risks are if things go wrong and whether you’ll wind up paying or fine or perhaps doing some jail time if things go wrong.
  • Beer Test: this one is pretty simple and comes from our Midwest roots. Is this the type of person you could enjoy having a beer or two with?  If not, they better be so specialized in what they do because as a small business owner it’s key to enjoy the time you spend with your advisors.  We’re not saying you need to be best friends with them but there should be some kind of personal connection where you feel good about this person and enjoy their company.

These are just a few of the key things we’ve noticed are important over the years when selecting and retaining advisors.  You should gather a list of your own and use it to evaluate your current team or use it as a screening mechanism when interviewing new potential advisors.  The key thing to keep in mind is that you should constantly be searching for those advisors that are the right fit for you and your business and just because someone’s been your advisor for a decade doesn’t mean they get to advise you for the next decade.

Many of these advisors are necessary evils or else you as the business owner have to deal directly with the bureaucracy.  We know you’ll enjoy Jack’s story about why he hired his attorney when he started buying troubled companies and the direction Jack gave him to “keep me out of jail” while pursuing those acquisitions!

People, Companies and Resources We Mentioned in the Show