Small business owners need help, especially if they're new to starting and growing a business. For some, that means seeking help from a more experienced colleague who can lead by example while for others, guidance comes in the form of networking events that connect them with professionals who've had similar experiences.
While those methods are great, often businesses need more intensive, ongoing help as they make crucial decisions that affect the direction of their businesses. A small business advisor can bring the insight business owners need as they start out. Services like SCORE and BusinessAdvising.org can help connect small business owners with the right advisors, but it's important that entrepreneurs find the right advisor to meet their own needs. Here are a few things to look for as you try to find an advisor to help you.
A Coaching Mentality
Consultants are often brought in to examine a business's current operations and make recommendations before exiting. But a successful small business advisor will approach the job from a coaching standpoint, with the end goal of ensuring the small business owner gets the skills necessary to thrive long after the advisor is gone.
As you're reviewing an advisor's background, look for work descriptions that address leadership coaching. An advisor should demonstrate a history of coaching entrepreneurs to success, as well as a personal history of running and growing a business. When an advisor knows what an entrepreneur is going through from personal experience, that empathy translates to a great advisor-entrepreneur partnership.
Small Business Background
Many business advisors primarily work with larger businesses. As valuable as their knowledge can be, it's important to find an advisor who knows the unique challenges small business owners face, especially if they're working alone. Make sure you find an advisor who understands the unique dynamics of marketing, hiring, and competing with larger businesses and can translate that knowledge to the products or services your business sells.
Even better than an advisor who has worked with small business owners is one who has personally experienced owning a small business. A fellow small business owner will understand how difficult it can be to operate with very little funding and nonexistent internal support.
To be truly successful, business owner should have a long-term mentality, with an idea of where they want to be in a few years. A good small business advisor will understand that and strive to help business owners not only identify those goals, but set smaller goals to help them stay on track.
Search for small business advisors that have successfully helped small business owners create business plans, land investment dollars, and plot out their long-term plans. As you speak with potential advisors, ask how they'll help you set long-term goals and listen for indications that they place an emphasis on long-term planning. Since you'll likely only have an advisor for a short time, it's important to create a base that you can build off of as you try to plan on your own in the upcoming years.
Perhaps the most important quality of all in a small business advisor is a similar value system. If you prize integrity over "winning at all costs," an advisor who doesn't agree with that mentality will be a bad fit for you. If you believe people come before profits, it's important to find an advisor who agrees with that way of thinking and helps you craft a business that helps people, with profits naturally following.
That's not to say that an entrepreneur can't benefit from a different perspective. An advisor may think of directions for your business that never occurred to you. It's important to separate ideas from core values and make sure you find an advisor with a combination of similar values and unique ideas.
If you're thinking about finding a small business advisor, the first step is to outline the qualities you expect from a trusted helper. Then begin your search, narrowing your options until you find the perfect match for your small business.