More than seventy percent of small business owners run their businesses all by themselves. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they should, or need to, go it all alone. Here are the five people solo business proprietors should consider having on their team.
As a small business owner, your goal is to make money–so it only makes sense to consult a professional to help you manage this crucial aspect of your business. Becoming a business owner naturally adds complexity to your tax scenario, so at tax time, an accountant can be crucial for making sure you’re in full compliance and are filing correctly.
This becomes even easier if you work with an accountant before April 15th rolls around. Consider consulting an accountant as you’re setting up your business, as they can advise you on everything from the systems and processes you’ll need to track day-to-day commerce, to sales taxes, to the business structure you should adopt. Their expert knowledge in all of these areas can save you a lot of headaches down the line, and help protect what your business earns.
Sole proprietors should also consider lawyering up. In the wake of online services that make it easier for people with a do-it-yourself ethos to incorporate their business online, spending a little more money to have an attorney hear your business objectives, and consider important questions like liability and compliance that are particular to your industry, can be worth the investment. If you’re light on cash, remember that universities, small business associations, and other entities sometimes offer access to legal clinics that can get you in front of a business attorney, or a third-year law student, for free or at reduced cost.
As a business owner, you’ll also come face-to-face with matters of law throughout the course of running your business. An attorney can help you negotiate more favorable terms on your lease of commercial space, steer clear of potential legal icebergs you may not be equipped to detect in the distance, and is a good compliment to your accountant in terms of helping you decide on a businesses structure at startup time.
Marketing & PR
With all of the jobs that a solo business owner has to do, it can be easy for marketing to feel like a luxury and become an afterthought. But remember: the end goal of marketing is customer acquisition and retention. These are two of the most important activities that any business can undertake to build and protect revenue.
To be sure, it’s now easier than ever before to do marketing yourself. The two largest digital marketing platforms–Facebook and Google–both have fairly easy-to-use self-service platforms that enable you to to login, create a marketing message, and even target the people you want to reach by geography, interest and other factors. But as easy as marketing is to execute, many businesses still fail to see results for want of a sound strategy.
You might consider hiring a consultant to help you create an overarching marketing plan and program, plus a set of templates, calendars and other assets that will help you achieve your actual business objectives, and enable you to launch marketing campaigns that deliver the right message to the right people.
Public relations, which is all about getting good press coverage to drive interest in your business, can be trickier to do well without a professional. A boutique PR firm that works with individuals and small businesses might be a good bet when you’re ready for primetime. Colleges and other entities that serve small businesses can be a good place to get this type of one-time advising for free as well.
Being a solo business requires having the proverbial hands of Hydra. That means that tasks and communications that don’t have to do directly with the day-to-day of customer relations, creating or offering your products and services, and other immediate tasks might become backed up, or even fall by the wayside.
As business starts to pick up, you might find your local paper calling your for an interview, another small business reaching out to discuss a partnership, or a potentially large customer inquiring about a bulk order or custom service. Consider hiring a person or service to prioritize and manage those types of conversations so that nothing gets by you, and you’re still free to think mostly about managing your business. A virtual assistant can be a cost-effective solution that is also just right for a small-scale enterprise in terms of the service’s commitment to your account.
George Orwell said that, “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” Even more so when you’re doing the complex set of jobs required to run and maintain a business.
Sometimes one of the most valuable things people can offer you is an opportunity to get you outside of your own head. An advisor or advisors can give you a heads up about best and worse practices if they have experience with your particular types of businesses, offer fresh perspectives if they don’t, connect you to people and opportunities that can grow your business, and offer a “sanity check” that helps you keep everything in perspective.[image: Analyzing Financial Data by flickr user Dave Dugale of Learning Video]