You’re probably mulling over a business idea. It’s probably something you’ve been thinking about for a while. And you’re probably ready to turn your business idea into a reality.
As part of the planning stage, you’ll want to gather information, do research, and make sure that your business idea is viable. During this information-gathering stage, there’s a small list of people you should talk with before you move forward with bigger steps like applying for a bank loan or looking at commercial space.
To help you on your business quest, carve out time to talk with the following five people.
1. Your spouse
One of the first people you should talk with about this new venture is your spouse. It sounds like a no-brainer, right? But some people get so caught up in their business idea that they don’t have a real sit-down conversation about how the business could impact their relationship, finances, and free time.
“Starting a new business can be all-consuming, and the support of your spouse and family will make all the difference,” business mentor and lawyer Anne Sumpter Arney says. “It is best to know whether or not your family is ready for the commitment and time that starting a successful business will take.”
Tim Berry, founder of Palo Alto Software (makers of Bplans), has been open about his experience of bootstrapping his business and its impact on his relationship with his spouse.
“As we grew to revenues greater than $5 million in the early days, we had no outside investment, but my wife and I had three mortgages along the way and $65,000 in credit card debt at one point […] in my case, my wife was with me in all the key moments and shared the risk. If I hadn’t had her on board, I wouldn’t have done it.”
2. A lawyer
Starting a business involves a few legal hoops, so you’ll want to talk with a lawyer. For instance, should you start an LLC, an S-Corp, or an Inc.? A lawyer can give you advice and draw up the legal paperwork to make sure your business structure meets your goals and limits liability, Arney says.
A lawyer can also help you define business relationships. Maybe you borrowed money from one of your peers in exchange for equity in the business, or maybe you plan to start a company with several partners—whatever the situation, you’ll want legal documents to set boundaries and minimize future disputes, Arney says. Check out this article for advice on finding the right lawyer for your business.
3. An accountant and trusted advisor
When you’re just starting out, you’ll need some accounting advice. A lot of new business owners assume an accountant is just someone you call to handle taxes.
But as your business grows, they can also be a trusted advisor—someone to help you make sense of your financial statements, cash flow, and to strategically think through opportunities and challenges. As you start bringing in more customers and doing more business, you’ll probably find yourself wondering whether it’s the right time to buy a new piece of machinery, finance expansion, or hire your first employee. An expert advisor can help you make better business decisions with confidence.
4. A business coach or mentor
Getting a little advice from someone in the business world is also a good idea. Whether you’re opening your first business or your fifth, talking with someone who can give you independent business advice will go a long way, Arney says.
“You need someone who has been where you are and knows what there is to lose, as well as to win. Business owners need someone who knows them and their business and is independent enough to keep the vision tied to the real world,” she says.
Ideally, this person will be able to give you advice for years to come—not just as you plan your business, but also as your business grows. If you don’t already have a business coach or mentor, check out SCORE. They offer free business mentorship opportunities all around the US.
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5. A banker
Entrepreneurs sometimes obtain at least part of their financing through a traditional bank loan. If you plan to borrow money, you’ll want to find a trusted banker to help you through the application process. You may want to ask your business adviser to recommend a banker, or you could ask other business colleagues for a suggestion.
You’ll need to start a business checking account anyway, so start learning about what different banks and credit unions have to offer your business. Having a real relationship with a bank can be helpful if you ever want to apply for that loan or line of credit.
The smart way to start a business is with as much information as possible. By talking with these five people, Arney says you’ll start your business on solid footing.