Setting up your team of advisors…

As a consultant, you’re offering your expertise as a more efficient way to do things. Follow your own advice, and hire the expertise you need.

Years ago a new consultant (and fellow engineer) was grousing about how much trouble he was having with a fax program on his computer.

My response was “Why spend time on that when you could spend that time promoting your practice? Just go buy a fax. ” Sheepish, he agreed.

Done things like that myself. It is an easy trap to fall into, particularly when starting out and the budget is tight.

Here are my recommendations for setting up your professional team. Over the years, I have acquired eight that have all proven valuable to my consulting business.

(1)Attorney — Seek out an attorney who works with small businesses. If you brother-in-law specializes in divorces, move on. Better yet, ask him for a recommendation. If you don’t have a BIL, ask business colleagues.

That is how I found my business attorneys (MN and AZ.) They handled incorporations and also acted as “statutory agents.” The latter means they kept track of the annual corporate filings, for a very nominal fee.

They can also be very helpful if you are threatened with legal action. Yes, it happens, but having your attorney respond often nips things in the bud. (The voice of experience…)

(2) Accountant — Like your attorney, find an accountant who works with small business. I strongly recommend a CPA, which is very helpful if you are ever audited.

In addition to preparing your taxes, your accountant can set up your chart of accounts, and can handle payroll reports, retirement plans, and more. Trust me, it is worth it, and it leaves you free to pursue your business.

Accountants are also a good source of referrals to other specialists like financial planners (how I found mine.)

(3) Banker — As you should establish a separate business bank account, so should you establish a business relationship with a banker. The latter is very helpful if you ever need a loan for equipment or a vehicle.

While I’ve been with the same bank for many years, I’ve seen individual bankers come and go. As a result, I suggest an occasional short visit just to stay in touch.

(4) Computer — Unless you are a computer consultant yourself, find someone who can advise you and bail you out when thing go awry.

For years, we used by late business partner’s son for our PCs. When I recently switched to Apples, I found a local Apple consultant who was worth his weight in gold.

He accomplished in two days what might have taken me two months. Money well spent, and he is available if I have additional questions or problems.

(5) Internet – Planning a web site? Or have one that needs upgrading? Hire a web designer to both design and maintain your site. If you are blogging, you still provide the content, but you web consultant handles the rest.

Just today, I had a small problem with one of my sites. A quick email resolved the problem. Who knows how much time I might have spent trying to figure out what went wrong?

(6) Insurance Broker — Sooner or later, you will need business insurance. As a minimum, you’ll need “General Liability”, and perhaps “Professional Liability” insurance. If you have a business vehicle or commercial office space, you’ll need insurance for those too.

While your personal home/auto/life agent may be able to help, I’ve found a broker very useful in locating specialized policies for business.

(7) Estate lawyer — Even if you are young, it is never too soon to think the unthinkable. A sad example is the entertainer Prince, who died suddenly without a will. Not only is there infighting among relatives, but his philanthropic wishes will likely never be realized.

Ask your business attorney for a recommendation — and then meet with him or her!

(8) Financial planner — Last, but not least, add this member to your team. Time flies by, and suddenly you are looking at retirement – or worse, wishing you could retire.

Although many people fancy themselves good investors, unless you are willing to put in a lot of time and energy, I suggest professional help.

My recommendation is for a fiduciary whose fee is based on your assets under management. That way there are no conflicts — both of you are on the same team.

I found my financial advisor through my accountant, and could not be more pleased.  I often joke that even when the market crashed, he lost less that I would have lost.

But the losses were on paper, and thanks to his advice, I am now very well positioned in my retirement. Which allows me time to spend on the JumpToConsulting project 🙂

 So those are the eight members of my team of professional advisors. An now, the standard disclaimer – this post is educational only and does not constitute professional legal or financial advice.

But do seek out that professional advice — you will not regret it! 

P.S. As an aside, most of my advisors are in small practices themselves – often one or two people. I prefer that — they provide a perspective often missing from larger firms.

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