Pros to Know: Contact these people, ensure success
“Even when you’re brand new and you’re just working out of your basement, it’s important to have systems in place”
by Alberta Venture Staff
Even before your first sale
Retain an accountant
Like a banker, an accountant will be able to help you figure out the best way to structure your business, including whether your business should be registered with the Canada Revenue Agency as a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation.
“Those kinds of conversations are important to have right at the beginning.
We need to get things set up the right way in the first place,” says Barth Bradley, a Chartered Accountant and a council member at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Alberta. “Even when you’re brand new and you’re just working out of your basement, it’s important to have systems in place.”
However, Barth also recommends checking in with your accountant regularly for support beyond basic bookkeeping. “Accountants can help businesses when they realize that the business is going to work, if they want to know how they can get it to the next level,” he says.
After you’ve created your business plan
Build a relationship with a banker
When you’re ready to turn your business plan into action, start by talking to a banker. In addition to sourcing loans and other financing, they will help you figure out how to best structure your company.
“It’s very important to talk to you banker before you spend your first dollar because there’s certain things you can finance,” says Edward Straw, vice-president of strategic business solutions at ATB Financial. “If you do it the wrong way, you’re not going to get financing for the things that your money should have been spent on. For example, if you spend all the money on equipment and then ask the bank to give you working capital, that’s not going to work.”
Straw says a trusted banker shouldn’t just ask how much money you need – they should also connect you with other people, professionals and networks that will help make your business a success.
You’re doing succession planning (so pretty early on, right?)
Meet with a lawyer
Retaining legal services should be one of the key steps that any business takes in their first days, since a lawyer can help you determine how to best structure your business in the event of a liability. However, lawyers can also aid in the legal structure of your business for succession planning, in order to ensure that 20 years down the road, you can sell the business.
“We try to encourage a lot of our small businesses in the earlier growth stages, within five years of the business, to try and put some strategy together for the eventuality of selling the business,” says Jon Close, executive director of Community Futures Network of Alberta. “They should be thinking about it right from the outset.”
After you encounter your first obstacle
Talk to a management consultant
Management consultants help businesses when they’ve encountered their first major problems.
“It’s getting over that hump of, ‘We now have 100 employees,’ or ‘We’re now at $20 million.’ Whatever that hump is, how do we organize for the next level?” says management consultant Mike Watson. “Consultants will dig into the organization performance challenges to understand what some of the problems are and then develop a solution.”
But, cautions Watson, since some management consultants specialize in helping businesses get off the ground and running, make sure you’ve connected with a management consultant that has an expertise in second- or third-level planning. “Management consulting can help at every step of the way, but the same person probably isn’t the right expert in each part of a business’s growth,” he says.
After you’ve launched a new product
Find a marketing firm
Marketing and public relations are critical at the start of a business, particularly if you’re trying to break into a crowded marketplace. But if you were able to launch your business with success, you may want to consider hiring a public relations firm to announce any big moves or changes that your business is making.
“Public relations tends to take a bit of the long view,” says Henry Stevens, a vice-president at National Public Relations. “So while we focus on some specific tactics that are focused, what are we thinking about from a communications perspective is what we want to accomplish in long term.”
Consult an HR professional
Regardless of whether you’ve just hired your fifth employee or your 20th, if you haven’t done so already you’ll want to engage a human resources consultant. “As a company grows, you need to start thinking about actual people practices,” says Straw. “People are the hardest resource to get in Alberta.” An HR pro can help you determine your hiring process, employee benefits and policies for retaining or attracting high-performing employees.