Whether you are starting up or already running your business, there may come a time that you will seek the help of outside specialists. You may have completed partial sections of your business plan, but need the help of a business plan consultant to thresh out the remaining crucial elements. Or you may find it hard to keep up with the task of keeping your books.
Depending on your type of business and needs, you make need the advice and guidance of other professionals, such as an accountant, attorney, business plan consultant, public relations expert, marketing specialist or a computer consultant. More than just an additional expense, the right specialist can help you run your business smarter, and save you time and money.
As you will be working closely with the professional, it is essential that you make the right choice. After all, you will be sharing information about your business (maybe even confidential ones) to the lawyer or virtual assistant that you plan to hire. Whether you are thinking of hiring an accountant or a direct marketing consultant, below are some guidelines to help you select the right professional to work with:
1. Carefully choose someone who understands general small business problems and your particular type of business.
You may want to work with professionals that other businesses in your industry have already used. If you need help in marketing your online venture, look for a public relations expert specializing in Internet businesses. Check with your chamber of commerce, industry association, business contacts or other entrepreneurs in the industry and ask them for references.
2. Make a shortlist of the professionals (at least three prospects) that you think you can work with and set out to interview them.
Don’t rush the process of hiring one; remember, you will be entrusting them with your business so it is very important to make sure that you will be comfortable working with them. Decide if you want a professional that can give you personalized service (usually the smaller companies and independent professionals) or a big firm that offers more services and can lend prestige to your business.
3. Learn everything you can about the professional.
Get a clear picture of the exact service you are buying. If you are looking for an accountant, will it be part of his or her services to plan your tax strategy? Understand what the working relationship will be, and more importantly, what fees will be charged. Have a written agreement that details the deliverables, timetable and payment schedule. If there are provisions that you are not clear about, don’t hesitate to ask and seek clarification.
4. Once you’ve selected the professional that you think is right for you, cultivate a trusting, businesslike relationship.
The professional that you hired is now a key member of your management team. Present to the person or firm that you hired the real business picture, whether your business is doing well or having problems. You can only expect your money’s worth if the expert can give you proper advice, and this cannot be done if you give out partial or incorrect information. Be completely honest about your business situation. You can then work as a team to solve your problem or improve your business operation. Also, keep your appointments and pay your bills promptly.
5. Learn as much from the professional, but don’t rely too much on them.
The marketing expert can help spread the word about your business, but it is worthwhile to develop some of the skills (in this case, marketing) where you are inexperienced. You can discuss concepts and strategies with the consultant, read books on the topic, or even take a course in your local community college. By knowing more about the topic, you are better able to determine and appreciate the value-added of the expert that you hired.
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