All sole traders need to have a few experts on speed dial if they’re going to make it. Here are five experts you need to have close at hand:
The advisory board
Whether it’s a formal advisory board, a mentor or a couple of people in business you trust, you need someone handy to call.
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This is the person you turn to when you have a brainwave, you’re trying to negotiate a new deal or need some advice on a tricky client.
Joshua Stega has an advisory board in place as he builds his Sydney-based business, JAS Wealth, which helps people manage their wealth. The board meets quarterly.
His advisory board provides strategic advice on business decisions which can range from company goals and objectives through to new business opportunities.
“Unlike a board of directors, the board is in place on an advisory basis only, therefore there are no formal director’s duties or responsibilities to our business or shareholders,” Stega says.
Many of its greatest business developments have been the result of a board member sharing informal insights. “It could be as little as a forwarded email with an interesting article that can provide an ‘ah-ha’ moment for our business.”
The IT expert
It’s uncanny how a complete computer system failure occurs right when you’re in a busy period.
Avoid the headaches by finding an IT expert that can be available at the drop of a hat before you need them. It would be worth considering getting them to service your PC or add software so you have an established working relationship before any issues arise.
Felicity Grey of PR and marketing communications firm Theory Crew uses a former colleague as her IT expert. He has done website work, trouble shooting, converted to cloud, EDM and social media functionality advice.
“I opted for a service provider who is affordable, provides excellent customer service and sees the bigger picture of my business and specifically what I need in the long term. It’s not just about fixing problems, but providing suggestions on apps and programs to use,” Grey says.
When her emails were down, her IT guy dealt with it on her behalf, calling her hosting service to get the problem fixed. Aside from prompt payment, she has thanked him for his brilliant service by giving him lots of business referrals.
The legal expert
No matter what sort of business you run, in this day and age, you need some sort of legal expert at hand.
A legal eagle you trust can help you determine whether or not you should be concerned about that logo you’ve come across that looks very much like yours, or whether those tweets about your business is over-stepping the line.
Tektonia Marketing works mostly in the health and medicine sector, which is governed by a number of advertising rules, policies and laws. Managing director Daniel Jess relies on outsourced legal counsel from advertising, intellectual property and commercial lawyers to meet the needs of its clients.
His firm has sought advice on intellectual property including copyrights, trademarks, patents, professional counsel on advertising and media laws and general business commercial law advice including contracting, venture capital acquisition and company administration practices. His legal experts have adopted fixed fee billing structures, which avoids unexpected bills and also means he can more accurately quote the legal advice costs to clients than used to be the case.
“Though extremely rare, we recently needed to phone our IP legal expert at 3am to seek urgent counsel on the legality of a new product name being launched in Australia for a filmed competition at 10am the next morning. We are certainly grateful for the high quality legal counsel that has been afforded in our hour of need.”
No matter what type of business you run, not being across the finances will ensure failure quicker than anything else.
Many sole traders come to a point where they outsource the accounting to a professional.
This is particularly wise if your venture has grown to a point where you’re better off spending your time working on other aspects of your business. Or, you’d be wise to allow for the costs of an accountant from the outset if accounting isn’t a core strength.
Melbourne founder and head producer of RISE Films, Nick Heydon, says he swapped accountants for a great small business accountant that better understood the vagaries and challenges of creative businesses. His business provides video services to corporations and government.
“We have a close relationship. We meet each other each quarterly for a major objective discussion on the state of play. As my business grows, this will move to monthly. We are also close by, so meet every 10 days or so for an informal chat.”
A courier service that you can rely on and is easy to access is vital for almost anyone running a small business.
Knowing that you can meet the needs of your customers often rests on the reliability of your courier service, so it’s best to experiment with a few carriers to compare cost and speed and reliability of service.
Jonathan Lang is a sole trader working from home who offers an interior decorating service.
He has established a good working relationship with three removalists. He needed to find a service that can safely move restored furniture, as it’s not a great idea to use a service you don’t know with $20,000 worth of furniture, he says.
He likes to have a few courier services at hand because some of the one or two-man courier services might get a lot of work from a couple of clients, making it difficult to get hold of them at short notice. It can also be hard to get a courier in the weeks before Christmas, he says.
“My requirements are that they are reliable, careful with new or restored items and are well presented. They are an extension of my business.”