We have all been there. You are running a business, you are driving marketing, sales, strategy, administration, hiring (and firing) staff, starting (and ending) client relationships, when you realise you need to find an accountant who does more than just the compliance stuff.
So you ask around. You speak with friends and colleagues, check out LinkedIn and do as much information gathering as legally permissible without breaching stalking laws. Or at least you should. Choosing an adviser without undertaking some due diligence is like a shotgun Las Vegas wedding – bound to end in tears and disappointment.
Over the years I have heard plenty of horror stories from clients about their business advisers. Odd behaviour, unprofessional dress sense (both men and women) and terrible advice. But these are the more ‘exotic’ scenarios and the more day-to-day frustrations business people have with their advisers centre on communication skills and the ability to engage and lead. The most common complaint is – ‘beyond compliance, our adviser is just not interested’.
I am not writing this to pass judgement on either adviser or client, but rather to highlight that it is also the client’s shared responsibility to lay out the road map, agree on scope and guide the adviser if their needs change. The issue arises when the client clearly articulates a need for more and the adviser is unwilling or unable to match the requirement. So how do you and your business avoid facing this issue?
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1. Do your homework
Find out all you can about how the adviser and their firm work. Are they proactively engaged and involved with their clients businesses? Do they go the extra mile to make introductions? Do they ring you to check on how you are going without a set agenda?
2. Are they qualified?
Qualifications aren’t just university degrees and courses attended. The question is directed towards expertise and understanding the space and industry you work in. Do they have other clients in this industry? Can they give you the expert guidance and deep industry experience your business will need to grow?
3. Value system
Do they share your value system? Can you see yourself working closely with them for years to come?
These are big questions – but when it comes to working together to build your business, you want someone who is 100% on your side and understands your core drivers. A misunderstanding in this area leads to misaligned expectations and eventual conflict. These are questions worth asking early on.
Most importantly, just take your time before jumping in. Write down what is critical to you and your business and go forth and interview, ask around and employ a healthy level of scepticism. That attitude will serve you and your business well.
This article first appeared on StartupSmart.