It is imperative to know where to look for professional advice on starting a business. Specialists such as a certified public accountant who can give you small business tax advice, a business attorney who can give you small business legal advice, a business coach who can guide you to succeed, and a payroll expert who can prepare your payroll will have your best interests in mind.
These professionals are specialists in areas where you, as a business owner, can’t possibly have enough knowledge. It is important to engage these business professionals before you encounter crises. One of their jobs is to avoid a crisis.
Unless you employ an accountant, and even when you do, a good outside accountant is very valuable.
An attorney is also very important in a startup situation of any complexity.
Payroll service providers allow you to focus on growing the business rather than taking your valuable time preparing payroll. They also make sure all payroll-related legal requirements are met.
Business coaches serve to give you an experienced viewpoint. Whether you need one depends on your personal circumstance.
What to Look for in an Accountant
The time to look for an accountant is before you start your business. Your accountant can give you much more than small business tax advice. An accountant should have the experience and knowledge to give you all kind of advice on starting a business. Here are some things to look for in an accountant:
- Does the accountant have experience in your industry?
- Some accountants are sole practitioners and some work for international CPA firms. Some work for retail tax franchises. They are appropriate for businesses with relatively simple tax returns. Local, independent tax firms often specialize in the tax needs of individuals and small businesses in their neighborhoods. International CPA firms are able to meet the needs of businesses with many branches all over the world. They are also often best equipped to handle complex tax affairs because of their large research departments and their ability to specialize. Make sure your needs match the availability, expertise and cost of the accountant you choose.
- Look for an accountant who has a network of relationships that can appropriately help you. For instance, you can rely on your accountant to help you decide on a banker. Your accountant may also have contacts in your industry and could also refer you to other service providers.
- Make sure your accountant is properly licensed and in good standing with the proper state authorities.
- Be wary of an accountant who promises you big refunds or who says you can deduct everything. Remember, in the final analysis, you sign the tax return and are responsible.
- Just like the other people you work with, it is important that you have good rapport with your accountant. You need to feel comfortable with him/her.
An experienced accountant has seen many situations. He can advise you regarding many start-up situations including:
- The appropriate division of capital and loans to a new business
- The appropriate form of organization
- Helping set up the accounting systems
- Helping with your cash-flow forecasts and advising you on capital needs.
- Advising you as to computer hardware and software needs
- Filing tax returns
Work closely with your accountant. Don’t underestimate the help he/she can give you.
What to Look for in an Attorney
There are many issues an attorney can address when you need small business legal advice. The advice on starting a business is especially important if you have decided on a partnership. Among the most important are the following:
- An attorney should draw up a partnership agreement or form a corporation and make appropriate filings with governmental authorities.
- An attorney should review any leases or other agreements you may have to sign.
- Your attorney may be needed to protect you in the areas of patents and intellectual property rights.
There are three main advantages to outsourcing or systematizing payroll:
- You can be assured that the payroll is done correctly
- You don’t have to spend your time on doing payroll when you might be spending it more productively
- Payroll services typically withhold and remit the taxes the business owes. Thus, you don’t get into a situation of having withheld taxes but spent the money before they are due.
Coaching is no longer just for sports. A good coach can give you great advice on starting a business. Some advantages of having a business coach are:
- The coach can give you an unbiased view. He can see the forest where you may only be able to see the trees.
- A business coach may be able to show you how you can wring more profit out of your business, possibly even by working less.
- A coach will keep you accountable, doing the work that brings in the money.
When looking for a business coach it is very important that you resonate with that coach. Two choices you have are to:
- Hire a franchised coach who is trained and supported by a national organization. These coaches plug you into a system to teach you and keep you accountable, or you can
- Hire an independent coach with a good track record who is more likely to customize a program to help you.
In either case, just like when you find other business professionals, it is crucial that you “connect” with the coach.