One thing I know about entrepreneurs is that we are a confident bunch.
After all, the willingness to leave a job and its attendant salary and benefits in order to create a new startup from scratch requires a degree of self-assurance that a lot of people do not have. Generally speaking, we entrepreneurs are a smart, positive, can-do, get-the-job done group.
But that very same confidence can be our downfall when it breeds over-confidence.
Danger Will Robinson!
As such, one thing I have noticed in the best entrepreneurs that I work with, speak to, and write for is that they know what they don’t know; that is, they know what their strengths and weaknesses are and they look to shore up those weaknesses by either hiring the right people, or at least having an informal “board of advisors” to help fill in the gaps.
Let’s say you have decided to take Yahoo Small Business up on the free offer I have been mentioning in these blogs recently, namely, you have decided to Get Online and start your own business.
If so, you will have found what I found – a great, easy, affordable way to start a business, even if you have never done so before. As Kushagra Shrivastava, managing director at Verizon says: “Our Get Online offer not only provides the tools and resources to start a business but also ongoing support. From technology, sales and marketing to finance and legal, the multiple different aspects to running a business can be overwhelming. Entrepreneurs must wear many hats, but you don’t have to wear every hat—working with a trusted partner, like Yahoo Small Business, allows you to get guidance on key aspects of business management so you can focus on what you love to do.”
That’s why the caution I mentioned above is appropriate. You do not know everything about running a small business – no one does – and that is why creating a “board of advisors” makes so much sense.
A board of advisors is a group whose purpose is to help guide you and grow your business. A great board is one that can offer you advice, feedback, expertise, and access to their network.
Indeed, advice and feedback in your new venture will be critical. Maybe that marketing idea you have is great, but maybe not. Getting feedback from an experienced businessperson who informally sits on your board can save you time, money, and potential grief.
Similarly, working with someone who has knowledge on how to build out your network of contacts is important. On our own, we can only have so many contacts and colleagues. And if it is true that “it’s not what you know, but who you know” (and it is), then a board of advisors helps you know more people. Having local contacts, and getting noticed locally, is key to your future success.
When looking for advisors, look for potential advisors who:
- Have experience: You want a board of business-savvy individuals. Having your brother as an advisor negates its purpose, unless he offers something of value.
- Have diverse skills: There are so many different facets of running a small business – sales, finance, marketing, legal – that having board members with a variety of business skills ensures that you will have someone around who can answer questions and help solve problems when they arise.
- Are independent: You want people willing to be the devil’s advocate, who will give you their honest feedback.
You’ll want a partner that understands how technology can impact your business and can guide you on how to use new technology tools to reach and serve your customers.
Beyond that, you will want two specific professionals on your advisory team: A lawyer and an accountant. These professionals can help steer you away from trouble and get you out of trouble if need be. Lawyers can help with contracts, leases, hiring employees or letting them go, etc., and accountants will help prepare your taxes and can give other helpful financial advice.
Luckily, if you decide to work with Yahoo Small Business, they also offer legal packages you can take advantage of!
You want to find professionals whose judgment you trust, who are smart and sharp, who are more concerned about helping you than billing you, and with whom you get along.
Getting help like this will prove to be invaluable. Between the professional site Yahoo Small Business will help you build and run and your team of experts, your new venture will definitely start off with a great foundation.
You got this!
This post is sponsored by Yahoo Small Business. As always, all opinions and ideas are entirely my own.
Steve Strauss is a senior small business columnist at USA TODAY and author of 15 books, including The Small Business Bible.