How to Find a Professional That You Trust


by Holli S. Powell, CPA

I say so often to people, “Check with your personal financial advisor” or “your legal counsel” or your “tax preparer”, that I might as well have it tattooed on my forehead.  But sometimes I forget that new business owners may not have the network or the resources to even know where to start with these things.

Check with your personal financial advisor.  Consult your legal counsel.  Verify all information with your tax preparer.  So many resources for small business owners make it seem like you need a personal entourage before you ever make your first sale.  But when you’re new to the business world, where do you even begin?

First, mine your networks.  To start a new business, you should probably consult with an attorney and a tax preparer.  To find one, start working those connections.  (This is also a great way to get the word out about your new business!)  Email people you know, especially people who work in the same industry or something similar.  Find friends of friends who are attorneys or accountants.  Post something on your LinkedIn page, your Facebook page, your Twitter account.  Don’t limit yourself to someone local!  You may find a tax professional who specializes in the exact type of widgets that you produce who lives in another time zone, but takes clients from all over the country.  Attorneys are more likely to be locally focused due to the differences in state and local laws, but that doesn’t mean one of them can’t help you.

Second, put them through their paces.  Once you have a few names, start making initial contact.  These people want you for their customer (and if they don’t, that’s strike one).  Don’t be afraid to request a phone or in-person consultation.  Most will do this for free (and again, if they don’t?  Strike two).  Ask them the tough questions, the silly questions.  Get a feel for how well they understand your business or (maybe more importantly) how well they want to understand your business.

Third, and maybe most importantly, go with your gut.  This person is going to be a trusted advisor for you, and you need to feel completely comfortable with them.  You need to feel like you can click open an email and shoot them a question at any time without them being condescending, ignoring it, or talking over your head.  If you are starting your own business, you already understand your intuition.  Use it.  Just because someone has glowing reviews and 10,000 hits on their blog doesn’t mean they are the best professional for you and your work.

Also, remember that working with a professional isn’t signing your life away.  At any time, you can take your business elsewhere, either because your circumstances change or because you just aren’t clicking with them the way you had hoped.  A true business professional will respect that decision and will help you move your account to someone better suited to your needs.

Above all, don’t let fear or intimidation keep you from pursuing working with a professional.  Taking charge of these matters from the get-go can keep your business working smoothly for years to come!

Hi, I’m Holli.  I have been a practicing accountant since 2001 and licensed Certified Public Accountant since 2002. I began my career in public accounting, and for those three years, I served all types of clients from manufacturing clients with multi-million dollar revenues to small non-profits. I then spent five years working for a large public technology company, where I identified areas of improvement and designed policies and procedures. For the past three years, I have served as the finance director for a non-profit religious organization, where I do everything from posting every deposit and writing every check, to participating in strategic planning sessions, to preparing and presenting regular financial presentations to the governing board.

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