Choosing Professional Advisers
Neil Bromage has run his own small business and is a freelance business writer working on a range of newspapers including The Times, Sunday Times, Telegraph and Financial Mail on Sunday. This book is based on a wide range of columns and Q&As written and answered by Neil for Business Link over a number of years. He is based near Preston, Lancs.
Most businesses need advisers of one sort or another in order to function properly. Some will see an accountant just once a year whilst others will need a range of professionals for legal, tax planning or management accounting advice. These are close relationships with each adviser knowing the very smallest detail of your business. A bad adviser can wreck your business.
Whilst most advisers belong to professional bodies, these will tell you little apart from whether the individual is licensed to practise. Personal knowledge is useful but try to avoid using personal friends, as this can often be a hindrance rather than an advantage. It can also ruin a good friendship. Try to get a personal recommendation from someone whose judgement you trust. Ask other businesses who they use and why.
It’s also important to define the needs of your business and be clear in your mind about these, as it’s easy to be sold services you don’t actually need. If, for instance, your business is highly specialised you may well require a specialised service which you can’t find locally. Distance can be a barrier but modern technology means that many of these are being gradually eroded.
Look for firms with a reputation in your area or industry and at who is hiring new people and what their specialities are. Approach a few firms at the same time to find out which one really wants your business. Remember, you’re paying the bill and if they are not willing to make an effort to get your business they are probably not worth using.
You could try out a firm before giving them all your business, though this will be easier with certain types of work legal for instance, where work is normally done on an ad hoc basis. You may also have two firms providing accountancy help – one for year-end accounts and another for taxation advice. After all, we are all more effective and sharper when we’re in competition with someone else!