Owning and operating a small business is a great life. It exposes you to almost every challenge while rewarding you for hard work and dedication. You have to be good at many things and continually learn new skills.
It can also be a very lonely lifestyle. You can’t really share your frustrations with those you work with because your job is to present an upbeat, positive attitude even when you don’t feel upbeat or positive. No one really understands what you go through emotionally as a small business owner. That’s why it’s so important to build a team of individuals from outside your company to help you make good decisions and keep you pointed in a positive direction. Doing it alone isn’t necessary and probably is impossible in the long run.
Over the years, I’ve found that there are three areas of business where outside involvement is beneficial. The first is a good accountant. Many business owners think of their accountants as people who prepare company taxes. They only see them once or twice a year, and the relationship is of minimal benefit to the company. A good accountant should offer services way beyond tax preparation. A good accountant also should be involved in planning for your business and helping you maximize your business potential. If your accountant doesn’t offer or promote this kind of assistance, you are missing an important ally. Planning or analyzing growth is something very important to a business, and a skilled accountant can help you see trends that are not always obvious to those working in a business every day. Accountants are also helpful in preparing loan proposals for banks. A good accountant knows what your banker is looking for and can help you develop an effective strategy. As the years go by, history with an involved accountant will help you maximize growth and minimize the consequences of your losses.
The second relationship important to running a small business is your banker. This relationship is more important than ever these days, during times when you need support. Slower times increase the need for lines of credit and additional support to keep things flowing. If your bank views you as just an account, it can feel very lonely when times get tough. Using a bank that takes the time to review your financial condition each year regardless of the economic times builds familiarity and opens the door when you need help. Your banker should be requesting a copy of your company tax returns and reviewing them with you every year. It’s important to hear his input before you need his help. Building this kind of open dialog creates a great base for getting the help you need when you need it.
Finally, one of the best relationships you can have as a small business owner is another small business owner—especially someone in the same industry as you. Sharing tips, ideas, and problems with someone who faces the same challenges will save you heartache and money. This relationship allows you to feel like you are not alone. Over the years I would never have been as successful had I not found other small business owners who were willing to listen and share advice. Some of the best friendships I’ve ever had have been with these kinds of individuals because we have developed deep bonds.
Developing strong relationships with these three individuals can pay dividends beyond almost anything else in your small business. The key to making it happen is your determination to make it happen. Insist that your accountant get more involved with planning and forecasting of your business. If he isn’t interested, interview new ones. Deliver your tax returns to your banker—even if he hasn’t asked for them. Call your friend who runs another frame business and find ways to help him improve or just be there to listen. You’ll be glad you did when you need his help. Like any relationship, you have to perform whatever is required to build it. You’ll have to be willing to do the work necessary to get the benefit from the relationship. If you are slow to produce what these individuals need from you, they will put less into the relationship and you will receive less benefit.
Small business in America is more challenging than ever. The likelihood of being successful without a good team of outside support is much less than if you surround yourself with those people who are interested in helping you grow. It takes work and commitment to build these relationships, but the reward is well worth it.