- Consider hiring an attorney, accountant, insurance agent/broker, banker, and financial planner when starting a small business
- Business coaches, consultants/mentors, and benefits consultants may be helpful for specific tasks
- Priority areas for new businesses include avoiding potential liabilities, managing taxes efficiently, and staying in compliance with government and industry regulations
- Start by deciding on a corporate structure and filing articles of incorporation or organization with your state's Secretary of State office
- Set up financial accounts and obtain necessary permits & licensing
- Engaging an insurance agent or broker can help protect you & the business from unexpected events
- Seek out professionals who understand your industry & build an ongoing relationship with them as needed
You’re seriously thinking about starting a business. Maybe you’re tired of being on someone else’s payroll or simply find more fulfillment in building a small business from scratch.
Here’s how to get started and assemble the right team of professionals to hit the ground running.
Why you need the support of professionals for your small business
Whether your dream is to support yourself (and maybe your family) or build the next tech giant, you will need a team of professionals to help you get started, use your resources wisely, and avoid the pitfalls many entrepreneurs often face.
Hiring the right team of professionals can reduce stress, minimize expensive mistakes, and help you avoid major headaches down the line.
They can help you set a strong foundation and offer a perspective you may not know you’re missing.
While you may not need all these specialists immediately, it is critical to understand what skills they bring to the table, where they fit in, and how they can help.
From accountants to attorneys, here are the five types of professionals whose expertise can help new small business owners hit the ground running. Plus, tips on determining what help you need and where to find it.
Professionals to consider hiring when starting a small business
An attorney will advise you on choosing a corporate structure, state and federal registration paperwork, and ongoing legal needs such as drawing up or reviewing contracts.
Like your personal taxes, your small business also needs to file taxes. An accountant can assist you with choosing a corporate structure, understanding tax obligations, and tax preparation. Some accountants also offer bookkeeping and other day-to-day financial services.
An insurance professional will ensure you’re protected against personal liability if something unexpected happens.
Additionally, they can assist with filing claims if necessary. Rather than having to sort through all of the different policies on your own, a business insurance specialist could save you time and money.
Essential if you will need business loans, lines of credit, or other banking services beyond basic checking and savings accounts.
A CFP® Professional can recommend and manage your company-related retirement plans; help keep an emphasis on personal financial obligations.
Other helpful professional services to consider
Business coaches are professional mentors who motivate, educate, and support small business owners. They offer guidance on a company's growth, vision, and goals. The best coaches prioritize strategies that help many business owners flourish while offering motivation for their clients.
These specialists help select and manage healthcare and other benefits; many will educate and support employees.
Three priorities of a new business
To get started, identify your business’s priorities.
All of the professionals who you work with to get your new business off the ground are ultimately going to help you achieve these three areas:
- Avoid potential liabilities
- Manage your taxes (and not pay more than you have to)
- Remain in compliance with all government and industry regulations
While these may sound simple, fulfilling each can be complex.
Avoiding potential liabilities, for example, can include how your business is legally organized, what your estimates and contracts say, along with the amount and type of insurance you carry.
That alone could mean consulting an accountant, an attorney, and an insurance broker. If money is tight, it may seem tempting to go the do-it-yourself route and avoid paying a professional.
In some cases, that may be fine. In other cases, doing it yourself could wind up costing you much more time, effort, and money in the long run.
For example, if you do some research, choose a corporate structure, and then complete the paperwork yourself, you could easily encounter unintended tax and other financial consequences later.
An attorney or accountant could show you how a specific corporate structure offers significant benefits for retirement plans or makes it possible to add partners as investors in the future when you’re ready to expand.
Or an insurance expert could save you from learning the hard way that your homeowner’s insurance won’t cover certain liabilities if you have a home office.
Before deciding if (and when) it makes sense to get outside assistance and advice, here are the things to consider.
What to consider before forming your small business team
Step 1: Decide on a structure
The first decision is how you plan to structure your business.
Will you form a corporation? If so, what type best suits your new business out of the several available?
Do you plan to hire people to work for you now or in the future?
Each of these is important when identifying how you structure your business.
Benefits of forming a corporation
- Lessens your potential financial and legal liabilities
- Provides opportunities for tax savings
- Opens up several options for company retirement plans and other perks
For most entrepreneurs, avoiding potential liabilities is the biggest reason to form a corporation. Without a corporation, you and your company are legally the same entity.
If someone files a lawsuit against your company, you’re liable.
That means things you own, such as your bank account(s), investments, and even your home, could be lost if someone successfully sues your company.
The corporate structure that is best for you may vary based on the company you are trying to build, so it may be helpful to consult an accountant, an attorney, or both to help you decide which is best for your business and how to get started.
Each type – C Corporation, S Corporation, Limited Liability Corporation (LLC), or Sole Proprietor – has different rules and tax treatments.
Filing articles of incorporation
Once you’ve decided on a corporate structure, the next step is to file articles of incorporation (for corporations) or articles of organization (for partnerships/LLCs) with your state through the Secretary of State’s office.
Your state should have the necessary forms and information you need to complete it online. Generally, the paperwork isn’t too complicated, but many entrepreneurs still choose to pay a professional for assistance when filing.
You’ll also have to make sure your business name is available and not already registered in your state; the Secretary of State’s website should have a list of the names of existing corporations.
Finally, if you plan to launch a business website, you’ll also need to check that the domain name (web address) is available through your domain registrar.
After this, it is time to obtain your federal tax ID number or Employer Identification Number (EIN).
You can do this through the IRS online portal. Be wary of other websites saying they can do this for you. While a second set of eyes on the application may be useful, third parties will likely charge unnecessary fees.
If you decide to structure your company as an S Corporation, you must file Form 2553 with the IRS.
Depending on your industry and location, you may also need to obtain specific permits and licensing. You should take a closer look at your state’s entity regulation to see if any apply to you.
Step 2. Set up your finances
The next step depends upon whether you’ll need a loan or a line of credit for your business.
If you will, you’ll probably want to develop a business relationship with a bank, either one you already use or a new one.
As an alternative, the Small Business Association (SBA) has several loan programs for small businesses at terms that may be better than a bank can offer.
One thing to remember is that banks and the SBA may require you to sign a personal guarantee to obtain a loan.
A personal guarantee means that if you fail to repay the loan, the lender can take certain assets, such as personal bank accounts or sometimes even your home, to cover the unpaid loan.
If you choose this option, make sure you have a realistic plan to pay back the money so your personal assets aren’t at risk.
A business checking account will be necessary regardless of how you finance your business.
It is important to keep personal and business accounts separate once forming your business. The IRS doesn’t look kindly on business owners who don’t keep business and personal accounts separate.
Step 3. Protect yourself and your business
Forming a corporation can shield you from some types of liability, but you still need to consult an insurance agent or broker about protecting yourself and your business.
Different types of businesses need different types of insurance; make sure you talk to an agent or broker who understands both small businesses and your industry. You may also need to consider health insurance options for yourself and your family.
Step 4. Build ongoing relationships
Some of the relationships you form with professionals, such as tax or legal professionals, will continue to be essential even once your business is up and running.
It is a good idea to maintain your relationships with these individuals so that they can continue to provide you with ongoing assistance as necessary.
For example, an accountant or other tax professionals may be needed to handle your taxes (and bookkeeping).
An attorney can assist you with preparing employment contracts, operational documents, or liability issues as your business grows.
An ongoing relationship with a banker can benefit you in many ways beyond loans, such as verifying a check that a new client just sent for a deposit.
Step 5. Investigate potential pros
The final step is your due diligence.
You want to find professionals who are well-versed in your business structure and have experience working with other entrepreneurs or startups. It is a bonus if they understand your industry.
Networking with other entrepreneurs or business owners is a great place to gain referrals for professionals that can help you get started.
Also, checking out LinkedIn, local events, or Facebook groups to see if you can find connections specific to your industry is a great place to start.
Interview each professional as a potential connection for your business. Ask in-depth questions, such as:
- How many new or startup businesses have you worked with?
- What did you do for them, and what were the results?
- How many businesses like mine have you worked with?
- What do you know about my industry?
Ask for references of clients similar to you, then do a thorough review. Make sure you understand their fees, how they charge, and what’s included.
If you decide to work with any of these individuals, be sure that you have a written agreement that outlines the fees and read it carefully before signing.
An attorney can help you to review any contracts or make any revisions before you sign.
Be upfront on what type of assistance you will need from these professionals - more hands-on assistance or just someone available to answer your questions periodically.
These professionals will be working for you to make your business successful, and ensuring they’re a good fit for your business is important.
Starting a small business takes time and dedication, but is well worth the effort in the end. Being informed about the legal and financial aspects of business setup can help make decisions for your company more straightforward.
Hiring qualified professionals like attorneys, accountants, bankers, insurance brokers, financial planners, and coaches can be instrumental in establishing a successful enterprise.
Most importantly, remember to enjoy the process. It may get challenging at times, but most successful small business owners agree that their early days are their most cherished moments.