I often talk about the value of using the Professionals when it comes to small business. I think it’s never more applicable than now. The balancing act is always about what you can do yourself or what you can afford to pay for. Often the cost is made up in time and peace of mind to you, the small business owner. Here are a few examples from my experiences.
Ideally your accountant should be dealing with small businesses. They can be the intermediary between you and the Banks and the Revenue. They will have a wealth of knowledge and will have invaluable input into your business.
Even before my business opened, I was using the services of an accountant (who I still use to this day). When I was creating my business case for a bank loan he was advising and guiding me and accompanied me on my bank loan interviews which was a great support.
When the business opened, I thought I could do my own bookkeeping and even considered doing my end of year returns! I realised early that the end of year returns required expertise I did not have. But, for the first couple of years I carried out my own bookkeeping. Although I was “keeping on top of it” so to speak, it really was a significant drain on my time. Time which was much better spent elsewhere. In year three, I happily handed over all those receipts, invoices, statements, and shoeboxes!!!
When I received notification of my first Revenue Audit my accountant walked me through the process and was present for the audit which went off smoothly, thanks in large part to his expertise.
There were many, many times I used my accountant as a sounding board to discuss plans on growth, expansion, staff hiring and other issues. I always received sound financial advice on which to base my business decision, that is what you need from a financial professional.
2. Insurance Brokers
Insurance is one of those areas that creeps up on you in small business requiring you to make a renewal decision when you have not taken the time to look at the marketplace or shop around. You may have all good intentions but invariably you get distracted!! In business you may have several insurances: premises, public liability, vehicle etc. and they may all come for renewal at different times.
I always used a broker for my insurance policies. This provided me with the peace of mind that I would not miss a renewal date and that they would shop around for the best quote for me. There is a brokerage fee, but it is not a lot of money for the peace of mind. Their marketplace search often found more competitive quotes which offset the fee and I was informed of any policy cover changes.
If there was query or insurance claim, I had one point of contact, my broker, and they were the intermediary with the insurance company. The broker had more clout with the insurance company to effect action more quickly on my issues. Again, go to the professionals.
3. Web sites
This one is a kind of reverse learning experience for me!!
Over the years in my business I had 4 different web sites. My first one was very beautiful but was not an e-commerce web site (well it was 2006!) This was followed by 2 other e-commerce web sites, designed after much discussions with the designers and much hope that they would result in great on-line sales. Unfortunately, neither of them lived up to their billing and orders were slow. Finally, I worked with a company who designed web sites for my industry. They had expertise in the area, and it did result in “overnight success.”
What I learned by this convoluted journey is that although you can rely on the professionals, you are the expert in your business and your industry. They are as good as the information you give them. What none of the web site designers had really explained to me was the absolute critical importance of keywords in the SEO of your web site. Sure, I was aware of “key words” as a concept and contributed some words to the process but nobody explained how to do the keyword search to maximum effect and ultimately maximum impact on the site.
We are all wiser now in this “Covid-digital” age and we know there are many other factors too that lead to a successful on-line sale!! However, your expertise on your industry are critical inputs into the success or otherwise of your web site sales and traffic.
4. Business Sales Advisers
I often ask myself would I have availed of the services of a small business adviser when I started my business back in 2008. It is a critical question to answer for my current business. The answer is probably not, however times are very different now. Do not get me wrong the recession was difficult and challenging. But on some level the pathway was clearer than it is now.
Aside completely from the uncertainty of pandemic, the challenges are that the traditional sales processes may never return to how they were, and the digital sales processes are not simply about getting an e-commerce web site up and running.
It’s about profiling your current and potential clients, it’s about having a new marketing and sales strategy, it’s about focusing your efforts to get the maximum return on your scarce resources. It’s about being aware of the supports that are on offer from LEO, ISME etc, it’s about constantly upskilling to keep a competitive edge. It’s about many things while you are trying to tread choppy waters.
Business and Sales advisers can provide great advice for small business because we are dealing with the challenges facing small business and start-ups every day. We have experience of the best ways to grow a small business and can advise new business owners on effective sales strategies and create effective sales plans.
So, under these circumstances would I have engaged the services of an adviser back in 2008, Yes, I would. As an advocate of using the professionals to do their expert job, I would have felt it was money well spent.