Your Business support team : the people helping your new business succeed

Episode 11

How to choose your business support team.

Starting a new business can be hard.

There is lots to do and only so much time which can feel overwhelming. The lifestyle business with a nice work-life balance seems to have gone out the window. Sometimes you feel like you have to be an expert at a million tasks. In reality, of course, you may never have done some of them in your whole life!

Fortunately, there are a lot of very knowledgeable people out there who can help you to navigate the demands of business ownership.

We call them your support team and in this episode we run through a list of the people who can help you along the way.

So, if you lack some key skills to really get your business humming, fear not! Listen to this episode to discover who you need to seek out to ask for help.

How do you choose your support team to fill the knowledge or skills gaps? 

Well, the answer will be a little different, depending on your situation. 

The chances are that following your Knowledge, Skill and Gaps self-assessment, you will have found some gaps.

If you have sufficient funds, you might employ some people who have the knowledge and experience you need. 

Starting up, you may need to outsource those functions, probably as cheaply as you can and only when you need them. 

And, if you are somewhere in between, you might engage the services of a business coach who might be able to help you with a lot of the strategic work.   

Based upon our experience, let’s list some of the professionals who can help you, along with what each does and how they can integrate into creating and growing a business.     

6 People for Your Support Team who can help your business thrive.

#1 Business Mentor.

A Business Mentor is No.1 on your support team because building a successful business is the result of making lots of correct decisions over a long period. 

Geoff and I have benefited from mentors over our careers and truly believe in the value they offer.

A good Business Mentor brings wisdom and experience and can also help you to coordinate all of the other experts you’ll need. 

The Business Mentor may or may not be a paid service. If you know someone experienced and successful in business, they may be happy to help you. Your Business Mentor may be someone to bounce your ideas off, who may be able to see risks or opportunities that you can’t see. While some of the other roles may not be required in every situation, we believe every business owner should have a Business Mentor. 

Here’s an article about choosing a business mentor and the benefits of paying them

How else can a business mentor help?

We have both benefited from good mentors over the years, and we appreciate how valuable they can be.

A Mentor can help to coordinate other experts that you might work with to get the best overview.

For example, when you go to your Accountant, or a Lawyer or a social media guru or your Business Coach, you tend to do that in isolation. The lawyer won’t know what you’re working on with your Accountant, who in turn may have no understanding of what you’re trying to achieve with your digital marketing strategy. 

Having an experienced person who can pull all of that other specialised advice together is extremely valuable.  

Fragmented advice confuses the poor business owner! Conflicting or confusing information slows you down when you need to going fast.

A mentoring relationship often grows over time to be very deep and built on mutual trust. It is quite a different sort of relationship than you tend to have with any of the other professions you’ll engage with throughout your business journey.

Perhaps, most importantly, a mentor can improve your business knowledge and confidence.

#2 Accountant. 

An accountant is a key member of your business support team. Getting the best results from your Tax return is an essential part of what accountants do. Still, they can also add value if you decide to start or acquire a business.

So, if you are starting something off from scratch, a good Accountant can help you with 

  1. Ensuring you comply with any financial and tax regulations 
  2. Choosing the best business structure, such as a sole trader, partnership, company, trust etc.
  3. Setting up your books or accounting software
  4. Perhaps some guidance around pricing goods or services

If you are buying a business, your Accountant will help with a process called ‘due diligence’ whereby they forensically examine the numbers that the seller has provided. It’s a vitally important task a suitably qualified Accountant should do for you.   

Some firms go beyond traditional accounting services. They might offer everything from bookkeeping to producing business plans, advising on strategy, identifying and measuring metrics within your business and exit strategies.

Choose your accountant wisely.

While there are certainly plenty of Accountants that can provide these services to a high level, our experience has taught us that certainly not all of them can.

In fact, and my Accountant friends will hate me for saying this, but “one thing that most businesses that have ever failed have had in common is they all had an Accountant!”      

That’s not a slight against all Accountants – as there are plenty who are excellent. But many lack the experience of working on the inside of businesses. Many who offer business advice have only ever run an accounting firm!

They often can pinpoint issues in your business through the numbers but may lack experience in fixing the problems.

Another issue is that financial accounts, by definition, are historical. Last year’s tax accounts to predict the future is a bit like driving and looking in the rear-view mirror.

Often, depending on the size of the accounting firm, you may not be working with the principal. Instead, you may be allocated one of the staff Accountants who may only be new to the industry and lacking in real-world experience.

#3 Lawyer.

Your support team needs to include a legal advisor. At the start of your journey, it is crucial to avoid any mistakes that can have a legal impact on you later.

Much like the Accounting profession, the legal industry is changing at a rapid rate. There are now many more options than there used to be, with online practices springing up across the globe in ever-growing numbers.

A lawyer will be vital in helping you with the following things.

  1. Understanding the best legal structure for your business.
  2. Navigating the many laws and regulations that govern everything from employing people to health and safety, to local bylaws covering food safety and many other rules too numerous to mention here.
  3. Leasing a property – this is a big one and where both of us have seen some absolute horror stories 
  4. Understanding any contracts you might need in place.

This list is just a few examples of how your lawyer can help.

There are now ways to access legal advice beyond walking into the local Lawyers office. However, that can still work as well.

What to look for when selecting a lawyer?

When selecting a lawyer for your support team, the most important thing is choosing one with experience, working with small business and the industry you’re in. There is a high degree of speciality in the legal profession these days, and not every lawyer has the necessary expertise in every area. For example, there are specialist franchise lawyers.

In your search, you can start by contacting the law society in your country or state. Remember that you’ll likely have to comply with a range of local, state and federal laws depending on what country you’re in.

Many online services are springing up that can offer a more cost-effective service by providing contract templates, etc. These can also be worth a look.

Protecting yourself, your idea and your business as much as possible from the start is where specialist lawyers or attorneys can be extremely valuable.

For example, obtaining trademarks, copyright, and patents can help you if someone copies your intellectual property. It doesn’t take much digging online to find some horror stories about Intellectual Property theft, so it’s well worth doing.

One last item often overlooked is protecting yourself from legal trouble relating to the use of your website. 

Having the terms and conditions and a privacy policy on your site created by a Lawyer experienced in the online world is critical.

# 4 Business Coach.

A Business Coach is more instructional on implementing your plans and maybe industry-specific. A Business Mentor may be more about wisdom and experience across different industries.

Now, this is a bit of a controversial choice for our list. Some people swear by their Business Coach, who becomes a long term member of the support team. Others view a Business Coach as a snake-oil salesperson who takes your money but offers no real value.   

There are good and bad in every profession, so it is unfair to label all Business Coaches as a waste of money.

So, let’s forget about the bad reputation stuff for a moment and concentrate on why we believe finding the right Business Coach for you is important. Firstly, there is a lot to master in running a business. Especially a business capable of delivering the kind of lifestyle that inspires many people to start a business in the first place. A good Business Coach will help you start your business in such a way that doesn’t lock you into working yourself into an early grave.

I’ve often heard Coaches use the analogy of sport-people still having a coach even when they are at the top of their sport. That, of course, is true. Roger Federer has a coach, and the Golden State Warriors have a Coach. Tiger Woods has had plenty of Coaches over the years.

Even at that level, a good Coach will detect areas where the athlete in question could improve when the athlete can’t see it.

What can a business coach help with?

These are some of the areas where a Business Coach can help by:

  1. Taking time to get a thorough understanding of your vision for your business and your life.
  2. Choosing the best strategy to achieve your vision
  3. Putting together a Business Plan
  4. Setting realistic goals
  5. Holding you and your team accountable for the implementation of the plan
  6. Suggesting ways around common business management problems
  7. Many business coaches will be versed in marketing and sales.

The most important element of the coaching relationship is that you need to be prepared to submit to the process. Once you’ve determined that the Coach you’ve chosen is a good fit for you, you need to do the work. 

Here’s an insight into how people become business coaches.

What is the key to working with a good business coach?

We’ve met business owners who have complained that they got nothing out of their work with a Coach. Still, when we’ve dug a little deeper, it has become apparent that they simply weren’t prepared to do the work.    

Why might you be better avoiding industry specialist coaches on your support team?

The answer to that depends upon where you are in your journey. A general Business coach should have experience across a large number of industries. They can bring experience or knowledge gained elsewhere into your business that can make a substantial difference.

A specialist coach can be valuable from a deep understanding of what it takes to succeed in your niche. A problem with those folks might be that they may also be advising your competitors unless you are their only client.

Industry-specific coaches may have good operational ideas about best industry practice.

However, if your goal is to build a valuable business, choose someone with broad industry experience. They will not encourage you to think like everybody else in your industry.

#5 Family/Friends.

This choice is for emotional support, which is as important as the other types of support we’ve listed, if not more so.

There’s always an impact on your friends and family which you can predict and plan for.

Everyone’s situation is different, but if you have loved ones close to you, it can be a great idea to get them on your support team. It’s not always easy to do. You might see an amazing opportunity ahead of you that is the realisation of a life-long dream. However, your partner, kids or parents might not see it the same way.

Partners or spouses can be challenging to win over at times, especially if you need to make a financial investment into a business or perhaps borrow money. Notably, of course, when your partner isn’t as convinced of success as you are.

In situations like this, all you can do is to calmly and rationally listen to their concerns, ask for their support, and try to arrive at a middle ground somewhere.

Of course, we’ve heard the argument that you should push on regardless of how the people closest to you feel about it. While there is a certain amount of truth to that, it can also provide for a huge increase in stress at a time when that’s the last thing you’re going to need.

If family support is a real roadblock for you, perhaps some counselling around that could be a wise investment.  

#6 Marketing Expert.

You can have the most fabulous Business idea of all time. Still, without a well-executed marketing program, it’s likely to remain just that – an idea that goes nowhere. A marketing expert on your business support team can make a huge difference.

Here is an illuminating episode – 5 Golden Rules: How to Talk To Customers

Marketing must be part of a business plan and strategy. One of my favourite sayings is, “Great marketing will kill a poor business”. Great marketing brings customers in droves, but if you can’t service those customers properly, it can mean the end of the business. 

This is whether you choose to pursue:

  • traditional marketing methods like magazine advertising, 
  • mailouts 
  • radio ads 
  • digital marketing 
  • writing blogs 
  • Facebook advertising  
  • Google Adwords

One question you might have is, do I need a website or will social media do it?

A good marketer will help you to identify the target market you’re best placed to serve and the various methods they can use to access that market. A good marketer will also be transparent about the results you can expect and how long the results should take.

As with all other forms of support, do your homework when selecting the right person or team for you. Research their success, seek out testimonials and make sure you’re comfortable with their methods.

Now, of course, depending on the type of business you’re thinking of building or buying, you may not need everyone at the same time or even regularly. There may be a range of others as well that we haven’t covered here.   

Avoid trying to do everything yourself and build your support team.

Building a successful business requires a lot of correct decisions and hard work. You can’t do it all, to a high level, yourself without paying the price elsewhere. It will cost you precious time, or you may get critical things wrong. So think about whom you’ll get on your support team as you work your way through deciding whether or not to get to help.

If you identified other gaps in your Knowledge and Skills, consider how you will plug that gap. Remember ignoring a critical business function or trying to do everything yourself may cause you problems.

Summary List of 6 roles in your business support team

  1. Business Mentor
  2. Accountant
  3. Lawyer
  4. Business Coach
  5. Family/Friends
  6. Marketing Expert

 

Our Entrepreneur Personality Quiz provides insight in how to prepare for business ownership.

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