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How to Find the Perfect Business Advisor
Posted on 27th July 2017 in Advisory
Written by Freya Hughes
SME owners often gravitate towards advisors who are popular or successful in a particular industry or area. It may be tempting to assume this advisor is top of their game and will be a good fit for you, but you must do your research on them before committing to using their services. So how are you going to find the perfect business advisor? To help get you started, we’ve listed the top five questions you should be asking.
We’ve explored the three fundamental things to ask a new accountant, but what about when you need more from them? 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. Remember, they’re not a business coach, so it’s crucial you understand exactly what you should be looking for. It would be a shame to waste time on a person that might never understand your goals for success, so arm yourself with our top five questions to ask an advisor and make sure you get a perfect fit.
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.
Is there a problem you’re struggling with in your business? Let’s say you’ve had some issues with HR, not knowing quite how to structure your team. Seek an advisor who specialises in HR, or at least has some strong knowledge and experience in solving the issues you have in your business. You hire the advisor, not the other way around so take your time and allow yourself to be picky.
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. If you like each other, you’ll get better results: conversations will be easier and spending time together will be a pleasure. And you never know, they might even be able to introduce you to some stellar industry contacts.
Question 4: Are they excited about your ideas?
Passion for work is an incredibly attractive quality, particularly for financial advisors. Imagine being able to throw your ideas out there to be met with enthusiasm and some fantastic pointers as to how to achieve them.
There’s nothing worse than expecting someone to help you and for them to be disinterested in what you have to say. 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?
‘A good advisor is like a good investor – they’ll ask tough questions before diving in,’ said the Fast Company in 2014, and it’s still relevant today. 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.