Your prospective advisor should be treated as a new member of staff: you should be asking them questions, as they should ask you questions, to see if you’re a good fit for one another.
Question 1: Have they run a business themselves?
Smaller businesses are very different to large corporations. Therefore it’s important your prospective advisor has experience with SMEs. There are fresh challenges that crop up frequently with a smaller business as margins are often fairly tight. When you meet with an advisor for the first time, use the meeting as somewhat of an interview. You’ve got to be a good fit for one another, otherwise, you may find you and your business are guided in the wrong direction.
Question 2: Do they think in the long-term?
The strategic planning you’ll undergo with your advisor requires the accountant to think in both the short term and the long term. You must be thinking of your goals frequently, and be able to think in the short and long term too. This will help you to identify where you’d like to be in the coming years. It shouldn’t just be you who thinks about the future, a good advisor will help you smash your future goals.
Question 3: Do they focus on your niche?
If your prospective advisor specialises in your industry, they’ll be the best person to understand your business worries. It is likely that they’ll also know the local and international competitors that you should be watching, and they’ll generally speak your language. It’s important that you and your advisor get on well on a basic level, as well as in terms of business.
Question 4: Are they excited about your ideas?
In your preliminary meeting, your advisor should be asking you plenty of questions as it’s their duty to find out as much about you, your business and your goals as they can. How will they be able to advise you otherwise? It’s a collaborative effort, planning for your business’ success – you would probably be quite uneasy with a stranger telling you what’s best for you, so get to know them and make sure they care about the goals you’re hoping to achieve as much as you do.
Question 5: Are they prepared to ask the hard questions?
We can’t stress enough the importance of your advisor being prepared to ask you something that may make either (or both) of you uncomfortable. These are often the most important things to understand about one another. Good advisors will want to be ethical about their practice, so if they do ask something you’re unsure if you want to share, it’s more than likely for good reason.