It’s a big deal when you finally decide to stop being a “SOLO”preneur. While you may still be the only full time person in your business, there are still people you need on your team. Without these individuals, you are little more than a glorified employee, overworked and under paid. Only you also happen to be the boss who isn’t giving you a raise.
Fine! But who do I actually need to have on my team to ensure the success of my business?
OMG! I’m so glad you asked. I was curious about this too. So I did a little informal polling of business owners in my network. Combined with several years of personal experience as a solopreneur, I’ve compiled a list of the five most critical people to have on your “team.” These roles are not necessarily full-time, but they are people who are on deck and ready to help when you need them. Think of them as your lifeline!
The five people you need on your team are a banker, accountant, lawyer, virtual assistant, and business coach. These individuals will be a huge asset to your team and reduce your risks.
If you want to know more about WHY these people are so valuable, keep reading. I'll provide some suggestions on things to think about when enlisting these individuals into the “inner circle”.
A banker’s role is threefold:
- help identify the most appropriate financial products for their prospective clients,
- process loan approvals,
- and service all account needs.
Bankers are great salesman and networkers. They also have a strong understanding of business fundamentals. These are all skills that can come in handy as a resource for your business.
While doing their job, a banker will become familiar with the details of your business, as well as other business in the industry and community. This insight puts them in a unique position to provide feedback on the health of your business.
With a banker's extensive network, they may be able to help with connections. These introductions could help grow your business.
Lastly, you don’t have to spend a dime to have a banker as a trusted advisor since your bank pays their salary.
Now for the bad news! You might be losing money if you don't have a good relationship with a banker.
Bankers still have some say in the interest rates you pay for business loans. While it may only be a fraction of a percent, that can add up to large sums of money over time. Building mutual trust with your banker will help you secure lines of credit at fair rates.
Let's be realistic though. No matter how great a relationship you have with your banker, they do not set bank policy. Hey, just make sure you review the bank on their policies, rates, and investment track record before making a decision. This will help you to make sure that the bank is small-business friendly. Check out these tips from Inc on how to choose the right bank.
Your next step will be to interview the bank! YES. Take some time to ask the bank if they have anyone on their team who specializes in working with small businesses. Will this banker actually be able to provide you with valuable business feedback and networking support.
Keep in mind that even the best-intentioned bankers have sales targets and work on commission. While they provide a perspective that can open your eyes to new opportunities, trust your gut and remember that nobody is more invested than you.
People you need on your team - Banker ✔
While a banker will become familiar with the details of your business model, nobody is more detail-oriented than an accountant. (Well, maybe a lawyer. See the next section!)
An accountant can help you compile important financial statements. Do you know what an income statement, a balance sheet and a statement of cash flows are? Oh, well your accountant does!
A good accountant will help you to turn numbers into strategy that will help your bottom line.
Your accountant can tell you:
- where to lower costs,
- how to get the best return on investment (ROI) for your time and energy,
- and how to spend and earn in ways that maximize tax benefits.
DIY accounting is almost never worth it. There’s a reason that professional accountants have to jump through hoops to do what they do. Did you know they have tons of schooling, pass certification exams, and need continuing education credits? Who wants to do all that? Well, they do, thankfully.
Accounting requires a lot of technical knowledge that goes way beyond having basic addition skills. By not paying a professional for this job, you risk missing important details of your company’s financial health, or worse, an IRS penalty. Even if you think that you’re capable of doing the job well, it’s likely not an efficient use of your time to master such a complex job function.
And, frankly, if you are like me, you just scratch your head in wonder at why anyone would love numbers the way they do!
So, ya, investing in an accountant is important. But wait! Don't forget about investing in the systems and processes that support your accountant. They are critical too.
There’s no point in hiring an accountant if you can’t provide them with detailed and accurate information on your costs and revenue. Something as simple as making sure that you are diligent in keeping personal and business spending separate can go a long way.
Plus, being organized will reduce the number of hours that your accountant bills you for. Just think - with the savings from your accounting you could afford a virtual assistant! (Wink. Wink.) Treat yourself!
People you need on your team - Accountant ✔
The role of a business lawyer will vary a lot depending on the industry. My clients most often use lawyers to write contracts. They may also use lawyers to protect intellectual property like books or online courses. Working with a lawyer is insurance for your business. You may never need it but that one time...
I recently worked with a client who used a little bit of a case study from one of her coaching clients in her marketing. While she did not use the client's name, the client felt there were too many identifying factors involved. My client didn't have a clear contract stating that she could use the information. What she had was vague at best. She had to go through months of stress trying to resolve the situation. The situation ended up costing her far more than if she had consulted with a lawyer in the first place.
Having a strong lawyer on your team isn’t likely to help grow revenue for most businesses. But it will help protect your assets and rights as a business owner.
It's particularly important to consult with a lawyer if your business is dependent on intellectual property for revenue. For example:
- course content,
- speaking, etc...
If someone were to copy your original work and undercut your price, it could threaten your entire business.
It's also important if you are in an industry where you can’t guarantee the outcome of your product or service.
A strong contract protects you if a customer or business partner were unhappy with the outcome of your work. It can protect you from being obligated to provide refunds or do more work.
Let’s face it – nobody enjoys paying legal fees, but think of it as an investment where most of the costs are upfront. Once your intellectual property has been protected, the only legal work you should need thereafter will be periodic maintenance or enforcement. Most contract language can also be reused and tweaked, which means costs for developing contracts should decrease over time as well.
So suck it up, shell out some dough for a lawyer, and instead use your energy on productive activities that will actually grow your business!
People you need on your team - Lawyer ✔
A virtual assistant does, well, virtually anything! If you find your weeks getting long, it is time to reassess how you are using your energy. Rank your personal to do list according to how well each task corresponds your core skills. Then figure out which of those low priority items can’t fit into your workweek, and then delegate!
Think about what your time is worth, and whether you could hire someone to complete some of your tasks for less than your “hourly wage,” so to speak. I mean seriously? Could you be out bringing in new business if you weren't stuck in the weeds of managing your current business?
Virtual assistants can do more than scheduling, data entry, or organizing files. As the remote and gig economies grow, so does the range of skills that can be accessed through virtual help. Additionally, several online tools and software now exist to help ease collaboration and coordination of more complex tasks. This makes it easier than ever to share work with someone who is not in the same location.
One added benefit of this is that you can take advantage of lower costs of living in other job markets. Virtual assistants can also be hired on an as need basis. This means that if you’re having a slow week and want to save a buck by doing that data entry yourself, you have that option! (Although I don’t recommend this.) Basically, virtual assistance can be quite affordable and flexible!
Using a virtual assistant for more complex needs can take time to orient the person to your business or support needs. As with other team members that we have recommended in this post, try to think of as an investment. If you are able to establish a relationship with one assistant and go back to them on a recurring basis for a range of tasks, it will help you to spend more time on high ROI activities. This will eventually boost your bottom line.
Curious about Virtual Assistant Services? You might also find these articles interesting.
People you need on your team - Virtual Assistant ✔
Are you lost in business? If you started your business knowing what you know well but not knowing how to actually RUN a business, then a business coach is an important person you need on your team. Business coaches can provide you with mentoring, consultation and strategy to help you grow your business.
Some business coaches specialize in the more technical aspects of business. For example, successful business strategy and organization.
Other business coaches are more focused on helping their clients with the softer side of business. These include developing leadership or networking skills or mindset shifts.
Even the smartest, most successful people need a sanity check, honest feedback, or help sorting through a tough problem once in a while.
As "solopreneurs", it's easy to get isolated from the types of conversations that help us grow. You can’t just chat with your colleagues to see if they are free to grab coffee down the street and help you sort through some aspect of your work.
Business coaches can come at a range of price points – everything from free to hundreds of dollars per hour. Free “business coaches" (more often referred to as mentors) are often an old boss or colleague that you trust to provide you with advice and feedback. Buying an old colleague a coffee is clearly the most inexpensive form of mentoring. You’ll likely be limited in how much time you can command from this person, though.
Hiring a professional can be expensive, but they are paid to make themselves available when you need them most. They will be able to provide you with advice that is based on more than anecdotal life experience.
Additionally, most people’s networks don’t have the full range of mentoring that one might need as a small business owner. Professional business coaches can be an excellent way to supplement the knowledge gaps of your inner circle.
People you need on your team - Business Coach ✔
A lot of solopreneurs don’t have the luxury of working from a commercial office setting with full maintenance and janitorial staff. If you’re working from home, chances are that household messes find their way into your workspace faster than you can keep up.
Not only is cleaning something that can be outsourced cheaply, many people find that they are happier and more productive when they work in a clean, pleasant environment. No more messes (aka. excuses) to distract you from getting your actual work done!
And never underestimate the power of focus when you aren't distracted by chores or clutter.
People you need on your team - Housekeeper ✔
Even small businesses need to have a network of professionals on their “team” to provide technical expertise, perspective, and ad hoc support.
So who's on your list?
- Banker: A strong relationship with a banker will provide you with access to affordable credit and financial products. They can also offer some occasional feedback on the direction of your business. And for almost no cost!
- Accountant: An accountant will help you to interpret all those pesky numbers, lowering your costs and improving your ROI.
- Lawyer: A lawyer will make sure that your core intellectual property is protected, and ensure that your contracts iron clad.
- Virtual Assistant: A virtual assistant can help you to do all the little thing that don’t take full advantage of your skills. This allows you to spend more of your time on revenue generating activities.
- Business Coach: A business coach can be there for you when you need a reality check or help solving a tough problem. Even the most business savvy professionals need an outside perspective once in a while!
Now that you’re ready to hire your “Virtual A Team,” it looks like you’re in the right place! Check out our Pricing page to learn more about our services!