As a leading local provider of small business support, WEV often gets asked for referrals. Can WEV recommend a bookkeeper for my business? Can you refer me to a good lawyer? Does WEV have a trusted CPA, insurance broker, financial advisor, etc. that I should work with?
The answer to these requests is unfortunately no – not because we don’t know of great people working in these fields, but because the choice of who to work with is unique to each business and business owner.
Giving Small Business Owners the Right Tools
Rather than referrals, we concentrate on providing tools to empower business owners with the confidence they know what they need to know to make an informed decision for their business. In other words, we teach people to fish, rather than giving them a fish.
Building on this central philosophy, and with so many fantastic professional service providers in the sea, we have brought together our recommendations to help you find the right professional for your needs.
Finding the Right Professional for your Small Business
So, what are some of these tools to find your team of advisors to support your small business, and where can you turn to for trusted advice in a world of information overload?
We recommend taking the following steps:
- Ask friends, family, colleagues who they recommend – ask those around you who you trust who they trust. What do they like about that provider? Are they responsive? Do their fees seem fair? Pro-tip: Get recommendations of multiple providers at this stage.
- Check professional associations and directories – validate any personal recommendations using a professional association or directory. Often this can also provide information such as years of expertise, areas of specialty, and even client reviews.
- Verify relevant education and certifications – confirm that the provider has the skills to do the work. What is their education level? When, where and in what are they qualified? How do they stay up to date on best practices?
Doing Your Due Diligence & Research
Many providers offer a free 30-minute consultation, and this is the time for you to ask your questions and do your due diligence. Here are some questions you will want answers to before selecting a provider:
- What is their professional experience?
- How long have they been doing this kind of work?
- What type of businesses do they have experience with?
- What type of issues do they have experience with?
- In other words, do they have experience dealing with businesses like yours facing similar issues to those that you face?
- Can they provide client referrals for you to follow up with?
- What is their fee structure?
- How long do they take to respond to communications?
- Do they carry professional liability insurance in case something goes wrong?
- What is the required commitment level?
- What would be the nature of your contract or agreement with them?
- Could you get out quickly if you felt that things weren’t going well?
This list is not exhaustive – when you speak with a potential provider add in any other questions that you feel are important in your situation or for your relationship with that provider.
Keep in mind that you want to reach out to multiple providers in your research. If you are only getting responses from one provider, you will be well-informed but still won’t have much of a choice in the end. Best practice is to research and consider at least three different professionals.
Short-term Pain, Long-term Gain
It’s worth taking the time to do your research and find a professional provider that you like and trust. Yes, this requires some investment up front, but it is likely to save you some major headaches down the line.
And, while we don’t give recommendations for any one professional or company to hire, there is one recommendation we happily share (and they didn’t pay us to say so!). If you are looking for financial products like credit cards and bank accounts, Nerdwallet is a great resource for comparing options.
So, there you have it; WEV’s recommendations for finding and catching just the “professional fish” you are looking for.
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