By Gina Blitstein
Entrepreneurs are an independent lot. By definition, you’re willing to shoulder responsibility and do the work yourselves to make your businesses succeed. It’s not easy for you to admit when and if you need to consult with an expert to help. Whether it’s for the purposes of preparatory consultation or putting out a professional “fire,” the fact is, hiring an outside expert can save time, effort, frustration and money. You just need to be convinced it’s worth it to rely upon someone else’s expertise in matters of your own businesses, and that can be a hard sell.
It’s therefore probably prudent to build in those expert consultations to your business plan from the get-go. That way when they’re necessary, they’re more like a planned and purposeful reaching out than a desperate cry for help. Consulting experts takes nothing away from your own level of professional expertise; rather it fortifies it, allowing you to focus on your strong suits while the experts attend to theirs. Some of the logical times for consulting with experts in the life of a business include:
In the planning stages
Getting together a business plan, financing, location, equipment, competent staff and all the other components of a business may well take expertise in areas about which you know little to nothing. Consulting with experienced professionals, like through the Small Business Administration, SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) or other business mentors is a smart preliminary step toward setting out on the right foot. Much can be learned from the experience of these seasoned professionals, from their own successes and failures alike. Likewise, consulting with or developing relationships with attorneys, business bankers, commercial realtors, equipment brokers and employment agencies will help you get your business off the ground with strong and sound advice to lead the way.
When you’re poised for growth
At certain points in your business’ life, you’ll recognize opportunities for potential growth. While you may be excited to leap on these opportunities, it will behoove you to take a step back and consult with your trusted team of professional advisors first. Pick their brains to discover what it is that, “you don’t know you don’t know,” about operating at this higher level. Are there any legal, tax, zoning, or labor considerations to be accounted for? Your experts can help you anticipate and prepare for changes to your business’ growth so that you can make the most of the opportunity. They can also help you set up the processes, procedures and equipment necessary to accommodate a busier, more productive workplace, ensuring the transition is smooth and as seamless as possible on all fronts.
When you’re actively growing
It’s all-too-easy to fall into a groove when your business is on the upswing. Sales are great, profits are high and production is buzzing right along – but is it safe to become lackadaisical at such a point? This may be an opportune time to consult once again with your experts to assess and reassess the direction in which your business is heading – or could be heading. Discuss issues such as:
1. Is the status-quo satisfactory – or do we want to consider growth measures, e.g. relocation, opening another location, creating new staff positions, providing greater benefits to attract higher-caliber employees, or increasing our business’ offerings?
2. How do we want to proceed differently in the future to help ensure our continued viability? Brainstorm some possible directions the company could take as economic and/or social changes occur so you won’t find yourself twisting in the wind and “up a creek without a paddle” in the case of an unforeseen reversal of fortune.
3. What are our ultimate goals with this business? What efforts, actions and plans do we need to implement in order to attain those goals? What’s an appropriate and acceptable timeframe in which to reach these goals?
When you stumble
Most businesses encounter at least one “rough patch” when circumstances simply go south. Whether it’s economic or social – mismanagement, mechanical or human error – any business can experience difficult times. When that happens, the biggest mistake you can make is to lock things down and try to solve the problem internally. Chances are, a lack of a “big picture” viewpoint has been a contributing factor to the downturn. Now, more than ever, is no time for a stubborn “we can fix it ourselves” attitude. Now is the time to turn to an expert consultant in the field to look at the situation from a fresh perspective. It’s easier to look outside the box to remedy a problem when you’re not already stuck within that box. Sooner is better, too; most problems are easier to fix before they’ve had time to get out of hand. Once you’re on the other side of that rough patch, your business will be stronger and more resilient for it – so wear your triumph over adversity as a badge of courage.
The best thing an entrepreneur can do is to assemble a “dream team” of trusted consultants whose counsel will guide the course of the business at large. Professional consultants come in many forms and can assist in a myriad of areas. In the same way that you would recognize that a plumbing or electrical issue in your home was beyond your ability to handle, your business will benefit from the recognition that certain things respond best to an expert hand. There are many points at which consulting with an expert will improve and safeguard your business’ performance; it’s a smart investment in the continued growth and success of your company.
Gina Blitstein combines her insight as a fellow small business owner with her strong communication skills, exploring topics that enhance your business efforts.
The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank or its affiliates.