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    Essential Advisors for CEOs: How to Find Reliable Advice to Grow Your Business

    Posted by Sylvia Lagerquist, CPA

    Essential Advisors for CEOs: How to Find Reliable Advice to Grow Your Business

    Building a successful business requires incredibly hard work, and once the business is built it demands even more effort to maintain and grow. One of the unique ironies of entrepreneurship is that business owners – who are most often surrounded by and interacting every day with customers, employees, vendors and partners – often report feeling very alone in their careers.

    That loneliness often emerges in two ways. One way is that the CEO feels responsible for everyone else’s welfare on a personal level (after all, the CEO is the one who is ultimately responsible for ensuring that there’s money in the bank to cover employee paychecks, that vendors deliver quality work and that customers are satisfied and pay their bills on time).

    Another way is that the CEO feels overwhelmed by the questions and decisions that continue to complicate their path to success. There is simply too much about running a business to master, and CEOs are constantly encountering new scenarios and situations. Considering these challenges, it is essential for CEOs to build a small but powerful network of professionals they can seek out for counsel and advice as they move the business forward.

    Building this network is a critical step for business owners, but the key is in identifying the right people with whom to partner on the journey. Here are five essential advisors every CEO should take time to identify and seek out as they build their business:

    1. The Growth Driver

    Scaling a successful business requires enormous focus on growth – whether that growth comes through organic revenue, new acquisitions or other channels. One of the most common challenges CEOs face is in understanding the difference between their sales abilities and the company’s sales abilities.

    When the CEO is the chief sales officer, it helps keep the sales team grounded and the CEO engaged in new customer relationship development. When the CEO is the only sales person, it ensures that no one will be able to replicate her or his success, and that the company will not be sustainable without new sales and marketing strategies.

    The growth driver is an advisor or consultant who can assess the company’s growth prospects and capabilities, and help shape a path to sustainable growth.

    2. The Process Planner

    The number one reason most companies can’t properly scale is because they lack processes.

    Leads are qualified based upon the sales person’s feelings or hunches. Customer service is built on the personalities of key people but is not consistently delivered. Operational efficiency is dependent upon what shift leader is on duty. And nothing’s written down.

    In the face of this impending chaos, you need a process expert…someone who will diligently focus on documenting and refining every sales process in your business. This person may be an operations expert or a business process architect. They may also come from an IT background (since the key to implementing most business software is to map it to well-defined business processes).

    3. The Talent Tuner

    Another area that can easily unravel as a business grows is the human capital side. This is in part because human resources involves a range of priorities, including compliance with increasingly complex federal, state and local laws; management, development and support for existing employees; and recruitment and on boarding of new talent.

    In the human capital area, even if one of these functions is working effectively, its impact will be completely undone if the next is not (picture a stellar candidate who is hired through a powerful recruitment effort, only to become lost due to poor onboarding and then leave the company soon after).

    An expert in human resources who can advise the CEO on all three of these areas (management/compliance, training/development and recruitment/retention) can effectively audit current operations and quickly craft effective strategies for building out the infrastructure necessary to ensure lasting success.

    4. The Attorney Architect

    We tend to think of lawyers as as point-of-need experts (i.e. “I’ll call the attorney when someone threatens to sue us”), but in reality a well-versed business attorney with dedicated experience in business strategy can become an extremely valuable resource from the start.

    The right business lawyer can become the architect who helps you decide how to build the business, by answering questions such as: what legal entity format to use; how to configure customer contracts; what approach to take with employee nondisclosure and non-competes; how to compensate partners or shareholders; and more.

    5. The CPA as CFO

    While many business owners may not have sought out the counsel of one or more of the other advisors in the past, most CEOs have worked with a CPA. And yet, your CPA is perhaps the most under-leveraged advisor you have at the table. Many CEOs tend to think of their CPA as strictly a tax and compliance expert, whose role is limited to managing these matters in a vacuum.

    And yet, may CPAs can (and do) act as outsourced or on-call CFOs for their clients, providing them with advice on matters ranging from forecasting growth and financing new equipment to analyzing performance and identifying new revenue streams. But you won’t know if your CPA can provide CFO-level counsel if you don’t ask.

    These five advisors can, collectively, help you bring your business forward and reduce risk as you invest in growth. Seeking out high-quality, expert advisors in these areas will give you the relationships and inputs you need to avoid the confusion and crises that so often come with having to make critical business decisions in a vacuum. Reach out today and start identifying your best business advisors.

    Image Credit: wworks (Flickr @ Creative Commons)

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