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How business advisors can help

Consulting with a business advisor is a sure-fire way of getting results. Their objective expertise will help you understand how your business is performing, where you’re falling short and how you can work to improve.

As a small business owner, you have to wear a lot of hats. But that doesn’t mean you need to be an expert in every aspect of running a business.

Getting a business advisor to help in grey areas will save you time, resources and energy in the long run. Your business is also much more likely to grow and succeed.

What is a business advisor?

A business advisor is anyone who can help you solve business problems or bridge a gap in your knowledge and skills.

There are many different types of advisors in all areas of business. Some advisors are generalists with a wide range of knowledge and expertise. Others are specialists in a specific area, eg marketing gurus or leadership coaches.

You can have informal arrangements, eg with your entrepreneurial neighbour or tech-savvy best friend, or formal ones, eg hiring an accountant or IT consultant.

When to see an advisor

Many business owners consult with a business advisor during periods of change or challenges.

See an advisor if you:

  • have specific objectives and don’t have the internal capabilities to meet them
  • are dealing with an issue you don’t know how to solve
  • need specialist support.

Meet with a representative at your local Regional Business Partner Network (external link) . They’ll help you choose what type of advisor might best suit your needs and make recommendations on experts in your area.

Friends and family provide much needed moral support — but get expert advice to make informed business decisions.

Friends and family provide much needed moral support — but get expert advice to make informed business decisions.

How to prepare for advice

Before you approach a professional business advisor, get clear on what you want from the relationship.

It’s a good idea to put together a brief that outlines:

  • your business
  • what you’re trying to achieve or solve
  • any specific issues you need help with.

Send your brief to a few different advisors to see what sort of responses you get.

When you first meet a potential advisor, bring along your business planning and financial documents. Come armed with lots of questions about how you and the advisor will work together to meet your needs.

You’ll also want to take any information related to the area you are seeking advice in. For example, if you speak to an IP lawyer about patenting your invention, you should take along descriptions and drawings of it.

Do ask for referrals or read testimonials.

Do ask for referrals or read testimonials.

Choosing the right advisor

The best business advisors challenge you, take a hands-on approach and proactively work to build your skills — they’re not cheerleaders on the sideline, nor drill sergeants who bark orders.

You should look for a business advisor who suits your particular working style and has the gusto and experience to make a real difference.

Don’t be afraid to book in an initial consultation before you make any commitments.

When you meet a potential advisor, ask:

  • Do they seem excited about my business?
  • Am I confident they will be able to help me achieve my objectives or solve my problem?
  • Do they have proven expertise with other businesses like mine?

Different advisors will charge different amounts for their services. Choose someone who fits your budget, but also remember that cost is usually determined by value. The best advisors often come with a higher price tag.

If you choose the right advisor, the cost of their expertise will pay dividends.

If you choose the right advisor, the cost of their expertise will pay dividends.

Getting the most from your advisor

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Whether you have a formal or informal arrangement, you and your advisor should define a clear set of objectives upfront, as well as a plan to get you there.

It’s a good idea to sign a written agreement that defines expectations, roles and pricing. Make sure you read — and agree to — everything outlined.

Meet as often as you need to build momentum and make progress.

Keep your appointments.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions — that’s what they are there for.

Stay focused on your objectives, but remember your business advisor has skills and expertise you don’t. They could make suggestions you hadn’t originally considered. Be flexible and open.

If you have concerns with how things are progressing, bring them up as soon as they arise. You’ll have a better chance of resolving any problems, or leaving the relationship under amicable terms.

Common mistakes
  • Not seeking help from a business advisor when you need it — you can’t, and shouldn’t, do it all.
  • Only relying on your friends and family for advice — there are times when you will need an expert.
  • Making price the determining factor when you choose an advisor — stay within your budget, but also make your decision based on an advisor’s track record for success.
  • Not clearly defining expectations from the start.

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