It’s not true. You know, the old saying about it being lonely at the top. It’s not necessarily true.
You can, and should, have the company of qualified professionals to help you understand your business needs/goals and safeguard you from mishaps. Even better, your dream team- I call the the Fab 4- can be instrumental in helping you find and use new opportunities, partners and more.
Meet the Superheros
Now, I don’t mean real superheroes but when you’re able to enjoy a new deduction because of your bookkeeper. Or, your VA gets out that mailing that’s been hogging a corner of your desk- these professionals will seem like heroes to you. Let’s take a closer look at your dream team lineup: attorney, bookkeeper, IT person and virtual assistant.
Starting a business requires some legal advice. You don’t need much to start but it’s better to get it, then cross your fingers and hope. You especially want help choosing the type of entity your company will become: solo proprietor, LLC or S corp. Your attorney ( and bookeeper) will help you think through this decision pointing out the advantages and disadvantages of each form. Also, you’ll want your legal eagle to review the contract that you draft. You can save money and have a more relevant document by doing it yourself and using this teammate as your backup.
Find a local attorney who specializes in small service businesses. Not your cousin Frank, the real estate attorney, unless you’re in real estate. One type of attorney does not fit all clients. You want someone who understands the ups & downs and risks a small biz owner faces and gives advice that not just about the legal stuff but also strategic.
To Find an Attorney:
- Ask friends for references. Be sure it’s a business lawyer not a general practitioner or other types.
- Seek names from your local bar association referral board. The first visit is typically discounted.
Your Bookkeeper/Accounting Software
If you’re the type of person who regularly balances your checkbook (and it reconciles), skip ahead. Everyone else needs a bookkeeper and accounting software. Your financial life and the health of your business depend on good record keeping.
Pound Wise, Penny foolish. That’s simple common sense, however, many folks would rather wish than concretely know that their business is making a profit. (Did you know it’s possible to have a positive cash flow and still face bankruptcy? Ignorance is not bliss) A friendly bookkeeper or accountant has the skills to save you a tremendous amount of money, time and aggravation. At the very least, use this professional to set up your chart of accounts in one of the accounting programs.
Your Accounting Software
I used to be a fan of Quickbooks, one of the most popular accounting software programs. It’s easy to use, has an online edition, numerous training options and offers good support via online forums.
What’s most impressive is it’s also an excellent automation tool. You can send email invoices; track payments, pay bills and do payroll. The invoices go out on time without you- that’s heaven.
Even if you’re just starting out and haven’t had a single client it’s important to think like an entrepreneur and get your business operations in place. Software will focus on the money so you can focus on the clients.
These days I prefer Outright because it’s so much more intuitive to use. Although it takes about 20 minutes to set up initially, it’s really a godsend for getting a ‘fast report’ on how you’re doing financially. Just open to your page and you’ll see graphics and colors that tell you the big picture instantly. What I love is that it tracks and updates all your accounts: checking, saving, paypal transactions, too. No more guessing!
Finding a Bookkeeper
- Ask for a recommendation in your networking group or online communities like Savor the Success or Bizniks.
- Look on Craigslist
- Ask your attorney for a recommendation from among her clients.
Your Own Geek Squad
Technology is a wonderful thing-when it works. Today, you can’t do business without an online presence: your site, blog, Google+, Twitter, Facebook. And, all these platforms need to communicate and work together to give you a seamless, ‘she’s everywhere’ brand. Getting them to do that, and more, is what your geek squad is for.
Online tech help is everywhere. No matter what you need to do you can find it online. So, first look for solutions there. I especially like YouTube for video tutorials. That’s the first place I go anytime I get a new piece of software or social media app. Look around until you find a video presenter you like and understand.
What happens when you need more personal, specific help?
Your Computer Repair person
You’ll also need a computer guru to keep your computer, software and hardware in tip top shape. Regular maintenance is essential, particularly if online marketing is a key part of your success strategy. Because my husband and I both run our businesses online, we looked for backup. Our first guru when we lived in Boston ran the IT department of a local college. He moonlighted with private clients. Only downside was that he wasn’t always available at a moment’s notice. Now, we found a local guy on Yelp. I love Yelp because it’s fairly transparent. You can game the system with fake reviews, but most people don’t, so you can get an incredible feel for the service provider.
Finding an IT Person:
- Try Craigslist.com
- Post a classified ad in the career center of a nearby college
- Check out freelance sites like Elance.com and Rentacoder.com (if you’re fairly savvy yourself.)
Your Secret Weapon-Virtual Assistant (VA)
Do you want to spend more time doing what you love and still generate new clients and income? Let me introduce you to my favorite business growth tool- a virtual assistant. The term virtual assistant, or VA, refers to a trained professional who helps you to complete a variety of tasks from administrative to research to marketing. Located ‘virtually’ anywhere geographically, your VA will bring a wealth of skills to you and can be your partner in success.
But I Can’t Afford Help!
Money must be used judiciously when you’re a new an emerging entrepreneur. However, taking the attitude that you can’t afford help or that you have to do it all is counterproductive to creating a profitable, sustainable practice.
It simply isn’t cost-efficient, or wise, to do everything yourself. I know. I did everything myself in my first two businesses. I devoted hours to learning all kinds of software programs, marketing approaches, search techniques, and it was all time away from what I’m really good at. And believe me that time was expensive.
Let’s look at an example. Imagine your hourly rate is $125. You want a database of prospective clients and you spend 4 hours reading articles on database design, software reviews and Excel before even attempting it yourself.
That’s a loss of $500 in real time and probably a lot more in lost opportunities that you could have pursued if you were marketing instead. Your time is worth money.
You can hire a virtual assistant for around $50 an hour (or less if you outsource off-shore) to do the research and create a database in whatever format you choose for $200. Do the math. You make better use of your most precious asset- time- so you can focus on making money.
But What Would She Do?
Your VA is your partner. You can ask her to do whatever tasks you designate. And, if delegation is hard because you’re a control freak, stay tuned. We have a course for you coming soon. Your VA can assist you by:
- Researching associations, magazines and foruma about your niche group
- Identifying and/or monitoring Google or Yahoo groups in your niche
- Compiling a list of blogs and ezines for article submission
- Setting up your blog, autoresponder and other techie stuff
Most VA professionals are highly skilled in current online marketing tactics and tools i.e. shopping cart administration, email marketing, website management, etc. Of course, you’ll experience an inevitable learning curve for both of you. Just be as clear as you can about your goals, expectations and decision-making style.
Finding a VA
- Do a Google search for virtual assistant firms. (You want a team, not a solopro, unless she has sturdy backup systems in place)
- Go to sites like Assistu.com, iavoa.org and HiremyMom.com
- Contact online or networking colleagues for their recommendations
Just because you’re on your own…
Just because you’re on your own, doesn’t mean you have to alone. You can benefit from having your very own Fabulous 4 whether you’re a newbie or veteran. Get some help now so you can enjoy doing what you love without worrying needlessly, being overwhelmed or missing opportunities.
Who is the most valuable member of your dream team?