Many small business owners think that they don't need legal or business advice once they're past the startup stage.
But in fact, small businesses benefit from outside help throughout their lives. Lawyers, accountants, and other professionals can act as advisors, helping you navigate various issues, including commercial leases, hiring and firing employees, and an unexpected surge in business. These outside professionals offer valuable expertise that can help you make better decisions, avoid expensive legal and financial mistakes, and keep your business profitable.
Here are five common situations where your business might benefit from an outsider's help:
When you buy or lease real estate
A property lease or purchase is a major transaction, and it's worth spending a little money to get it right. Outsiders can help you in several ways:
- A commercial realtor can help find a location that suits your needs and your budget. Realtors know the market and the going rate for property and can explain the complicated terms in commercial leases.
- A lawyer or a commercial realtor can review your lease or purchase documents. Leases, in particular, are usually written for the owner's benefit—not yours. A lawyer or realtor can help you negotiate a better deal.
- An accountant can help you evaluate the tax consequences of buying or leasing.
When you have any other deal or transaction
An attorney can identify and prepare the kinds of contracts you need for your business—whether that's a set of standard terms and conditions on the back of your invoice or a contract for a multi-million dollar deal. Contracts are important because they document the terms of a transaction and minimize the potential for misunderstandings and litigation.
A lawyer can also review and negotiate contracts prepared by people on the other side of a transaction. This helps you understand the contract and avoid being taken advantage of.
If you have employees
A dizzying array of employment laws may apply to your business, regulating everything from overtime pay to workplace discrimination. If you violate these laws, you could be facing fines, penalties, or a lawsuit.
Large companies have human resources specialists with extensive training and experience in workplace regulations and procedures. A human resources consultant can give a small business this same type of expertise. A consultant can help with recruiting, employee training, benefits administration, and regulation compliance. An employment lawyer can advise you on workplace laws and how to stay in compliance.
When it's tax time
You might do your own taxes or have your bookkeeper do them. But there's a big benefit to finding a good CPA you see every year at tax time. An accountant can do more than prepare your tax return in a way that minimizes your taxes. At your annual check-in, you can talk about the past year and where your business is headed. Your accountant can recommend new tax strategies or alert you to the tax consequences of future plans—potentially saving you a lot of money in the long run.
When you're growing quickly—or not making a profit
Sudden success can strain your resources and leave you with no idea how to manage the growth. When you're struggling, you may not know why or how to fix it.
- In times of growth, your lawyer and accountant can help you structure and negotiate transactions to minimize tax consequences. A human resources consultant and commercial realtor can help with getting more space and onboarding a bigger workforce. To prepare yourself for running a larger enterprise, you might hire a business coach, attend seminars or work with a SCORE mentor.
- When you are struggling, it can be hard to understand why. A business consultant or free mentoring through SCORE can help you identify the problem, so you put your time and money toward fixing the root cause of your struggles.
Outside advisors are a valuable part of any business team. They offer a fresh perspective and make up for expertise that you don't have. And, by calling on your advisors regularly, you can identify and take care of potential issues before they become major problems.