Although it’s tempting to try and run a business on your own, it’s usually a good idea to get professional help.
Hiring lawyers and accountants can help keep you out of legal and financial trouble, while public relations experts get your company in the public eye.
Technology consultants keep you aware of the solutions that will work best for your business. And having a good relationship with a particular credit union, bank, or banker is helpful as you attempt to make major financial decisions, such as arranging a line of credit or securing loans.
Keep in mind that professional advice can be expensive. In general, it’s a good idea to figure out the areas where expert help could provide the biggest boost, and hire professionals to achieve it. As you have more money at your disposal, you can hire other specialists when you need them.
You can also get business counseling at no cost from retired executives through an organization called the Service Corp of Retired Executives (SCORE), sponsored by the Small Business Administration. To find a local chapter, you can go to their website, Score.org.
Running your own business is challenging enough without trying to handle your company’s tax planning and reporting. Most business owners would agree that hiring an accountant is a good investment.
Accountants can work with you and your financial officer or controller to keep your business financially sound. Some areas that accountants can help you with include preparing profit and loss statements, audit reports, and earnings projections. An accountant can also troubleshoot for you and help you fine-tune your budget.
Many accountants will help you organize your records for more efficiency. And if you need a loan, your accountant can help you determine what type might be appropriate for you.
As a business owner, you’ll probably need to work with an attorney. If you have business associates who work with an attorney, ask for their recommendations. You can also contact your local business association for referrals.
In the early stages of your business, a lawyer can help you decide what type of structure (sole ownership, partnership, corporation, or franchise) will work best for you. As you grow, an attorney can foresee various business needs, such as zoning regulations, employment practices, and workplace safety. It’s also important to retain a lawyer if you are applying for trademarks or patents, because many legal issues arise during the application process. Finally, it’s crucial to have an employment lawyer review your employee handbook to make sure you cover all the bases, legally speaking.
It’s essential to find someone who’s experienced in business law, preferably someone who has worked with businesses like yours. You may also want to think about the size of the firm. A smaller firm may give you more personal attention, but a larger one usually offers a wider range of services.
Finally, you should find out how you’ll be charged for the legal services you need. Most lawyers charge an hourly fee, and the cost of each consultation depends on the lawyer’s billing rate. That generally depends on level of experience, the part of the country where you live, and the type of firm it is. Some lawyers charge a flat fee for a specific service, regardless of the amount of time it takes.
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