As the world of business becomes more complex, a small-business owner can no longer be an expert in all of the specialized disciplines a small business needs. Despite the fact that small-business owners must necessarily focus on producing and managing enough cash flow and on getting customers in the door, it is also critically important for them to cultivate and nurture relationships with a support team. This group includes:
An accountant/tax specialist
An insurance broker
A sales and marketing professional
Although thinking in terms of a “relationship” with employees might seem a little odd for a business owner, that relationship could be the most important of all of the relationships for the owner to cultivate. Because good employees represent a major resource in a small business, the time and effort the owner invests in nurturing that relationship has a huge return on investment. Employees who feel seen, respected and appreciated almost always produce more than anticipated.
Employees represent – in fact they are – the company to the customers. The business relationship with customers largely depends upon their experience and interaction with the employees. Happy employees tend to want to satisfy the customers, want to do a good job and want to stay in the job. This is important to the continuity of high-quality customer service and avoids the significant expense of employee turnover, employee retraining and the expensive but inevitable “rookie mistakes” of new, inexperienced employees. In addition, having trusted, long-term employees can free up the owner to handle off-site duties as needed. Establishing a retirement plan can benefit you and your employees.
A banking relationship is an obvious need, not only for routine business banking, but particularly when capital is needed to grow, increase inventory, buy a building, bridge a short-term gap between payable and receivables or to address the seasonality of the cash flow in the business. The banker that an owner goes to for a loan should know the business owner, understand the history of the business and have an understanding of the owner’s judgment and credibility regarding the use and payback prospects for a loan. If the long-term relationship is there, or it is at least in the process of being built, the loan request has a much better chance of being approved. If the business has borrowed and repaid loans in the past, the established track record and relationship greatly enhance the approval prospects. (Loan protection insurance can help in the event of financial difficulty.
Accountant or Tax Specialist
A relationship with an accountant is equally important if the business owner is to be confident in the quality, clarity, timeliness and understanding of the financial reporting provided. A relationship with an accountant can also enhance the business’s credibility with a banker when the business is seeking additional capital.
Many small businesses combine the accountant and tax-specialist functions in one outside entity for convenience, time-saving and cost reasons. This is fine if the accountant has the requisite tax experience for the industry and the tax expertise for the specific business it serves.
Every business owner should have a relationship with a business lawyer, liability attorney or legal firm. When an owner invests money and effort in building a business, it must be safeguarded from loss as a result of a lawsuit.
As part of business risk management, the business also should have a relationship with and the trusted advice of an insurance broker who will provide the optimal coverage in the relevant areas within the constraints of the business budget.
Depending on the owner’s sales and marketing expertise, a relationship with a marketing professional is highly advised. Most small businesses start with an entrepreneur who has a specific technical skill, a trade certification or has built up a following of customers for good work done.