7 Tips For Assembling a Team of Trusted Advisors for your Business

trusted small business advisorsOne of the most important aspects of starting and running a small business is assembling a top-notch team around you. No matter how talented a business founder is, you need a team of expert advisors if the business is going to succeed.

In fact, assembling a strong team of advisors is one of the most powerful ways of growing your business.

What types of advisors are necessary will depend on the industry and your business goals. However, most businesses will need a strong relationship with an accountant, a lawyer, a banker, a marketing consultant, and an insurance broker at a minimum. As your business grows, the list of individuals on your “team” will grow, to include technical experts and other specialized professionals.

While most businesses will not have any of these individuals on staff, you will need to establish a good working relationship early on with these professionals so that you can always turn to them for advice and guidance.

To help you build out your team of advisors, we’ve put together a list of 7 “tips” for assembling a team of trusted advisors to help you run your business.

7.) Get Recommendations.

First, you should ask others who they use as an accountant, as a lawyer, or as an insurance broker. Ask not just friends and relatives, but also ask others who have businesses in your same industry. In other words, ask your competitors.

You may find that there are a handful of individual professionals in your area who are the best-known experts on your industry. You can benefit immeasurably from having someone with experience and expertise in your industry who can help guide you through similar hurdles that others who have come before you have overcome.

Of course, if you ask your competitors who they use as an accountant or a lawyer, they may not want to tell you to maintain a competitive advantage, but I think it’s more likely you will find if they are happy with their lawyer or accountant, they will want to pass along more business to that person.

6.) Do Opposition Research.

After you have gotten a few recommendations of individuals, you should do some “opposition research” on your potential team members. See what information you can dig up.

Don’t stop at just checking out their websites, but also check common review websites such as Yelp to see if there is any negative feedback on these folks. You may save yourself a lot of time and headache by finding out early on that a potential team member has a reputation for sloppiness or rudeness. You definitely won’t want to find out the hard way.

5.) Sign an Employment Agreement For Any Staff.

Undoubtedly, as your business grows, your needs will change. At some point, you may decide you would be better off having an accountant on staff or a marketing professional on staff rather than as an outside consultant. You may find it will be cheaper too.

When this does happen, you should sign an employment agreement with any of your team members. Employment agreements ensure that there is a clear understanding of all responsibilities and duties, not just on your part, but on the part of your team members as well. It will go a long way towards preventing costly misunderstandings.

4.) Go with Your Gut.

Whoever you choose to join your team, you are going to need to trust them intimately. Only you know who will be the best fit for your personally in terms of your personality and what types of people compliment your skill set. So no matter how many people have recommended a particular professional, you need to be sure you can trust them. If you get a bad feeling about the person, you will end up not using them as much as you need to.

3.) Trust, But Verify.

You will need your team to work well without your constant direct supervision. Follow the “trust, but verify” theory. Trust that your team members will act in your best interest, but verify the work they produce for you.

This doesn’t mean reviewing all work product coming out of your team members. But it does mean not taking such a “hands off” approach that you never review the work your team members are doing.

2.) Create An Honor Code.

For your team to really “click” as a unified group, you will need to create a unifying “code”. Some people may call this a “mission statement” or “value statement.”

Simply put, it is the heart and the spirit of your business.

The “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” book series refers to this as an “Honor Code.” In Rich Dad’s Advisors: The ABC’s of Building a Business Team That Wins, author Blair Singer described the “Honor Code” as “something that lies deep in the genetic code of winning organizations…. It’s something that shows its face when the pressure is high, when the stakes are critical, and when everything is on the line… These are the rules that set the standards of conduct and performance.”

Does your business have an Honor Code?

1.) Train Your Team to Work Together.

One final critical step is to ensure your team members know one another and will work well together. Your team will not be working at their maximum capacity if each individual must work through you as an intermediary for all other team members.  You will quickly be overwhelmed and feel more like an employee than a business owner.

Allowing your team members to work together will require you to give up a measure of control, but in exchange you will get more efficient problem-solving and greater collaboration.

What have you done to build your business team? Did we miss any good advice? Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments below.


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John Corcoran is an attorney with Plastiras & Terrizzi in San Rafael, California (Marin County).  He advises clients about real estate/land use, general civil litigation, and small business matters.  He can be reached at (415) 250-8131 or [email protected]



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Photo credit: Flickr/Keith Allison