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Published : Oct 1, 2017

External Help for Small Businesses

Successful emerging businesses have a team of outsiders that help them achieve their potential: accountant, lawyer, business advisor, etc. They also leverage their customers, suppliers and sometimes their competitors in their pursuit of success.

Let’s start with the first professional you need to have on board: the accountant. Many small business use accountants only for specific accounting services and don't take advantage of their full range of skills.

  • Small businesses that work with accountants and use automated software have 16 percent greater revenue growth than those that use just software or neither, according to Accounting Web
  • Small-business owners see 24 percent more revenue by working with both an external accountant and an internal one.

You probably don’t have the time to do the detailed tracking and filing for your business so you should consider using a bookkeeper (on a part-time basis at first). You will need an accounting software package, like QuickBooks to make your entries into a usable state for the accountant to do your business governance and tax filings. Your bookkeeper can help with HST and payroll filings as well as help make operational financial suggestions.

Lawyers have a place in business but there are so many proven templates for basic business forms that small businesses seem to be able to avoid them till they get to a certain size and complexity. If you don’t know one, ask your accountant for a referral as well as helping you decide when you need one. Some of the areas you will need a lawyer are: shareholder agreements, contracts and intellectual property protection.

Business advisors have become an important part of many emerging business teams. They bring very senior experience, advice and contacts to help the business without having to recruit them to full time positions. These senior advisors can help write your business plan, or even lead your planning process. They can evaluate your operations and make suggestions for improvements. And they can source funding for expansion as well as help lead significant changes in your business.

  • Small and medium businesses that work with a consultant on strategy and business improvement see consistently between 15% and 20% improvement in cost reductions and/or revenue growth - depending on the project, significantly higher returns have been noted

Leverage the ‘crowd’! It is always a good idea to include feedback from clients, suppliers, partners and competitors in making decisions about your business. Client surveys continue to be useful, but the emerging use of ‘crowd’ sourcing has revealed some great opportunities. Many startup organizations now use ‘crowd-funding’ processes to replace the old ‘family-and-friends’ money raising techniques.

  • Crowd funding is an emerging potential for funds that should be considered by all emerging companies, but make sure you get advice from experienced consultants to avoid costly miss-steps; there is a process known as ‘pre-crowd-funding-preparation’ you should know about.

Outsourcing is always worth considering:

  • Cloud-based software applications are significantly cheaper and more reliable than self-managed implementations. Most emerging businesses do not fit the conventional IT-outsourcing models, but many of the sophisticated IT capabilities are now available for small business through this business process.
  • Since digital marketing has become so big in recent years, the automation of the marketing functions became a prime candidate for outsourcing. If you have resident marketing knowledge you can ‘cherry-pick’ the automation, or alternatively you can engage an organization for a total solution that includes marketing, creative and technology components.

Government programs:

  • SHReD – This is the most widely known government program and has helped thousands of emerging high tech firms fund their early stage development through re-imbursement of some of the costs spent on innovative product and service development.
  • EDC – Subsidy for developing an export capability. When it comes to international trade knowledge and expertise, businesses can turn to experienced professionals through consulting. And if risk is what is holding your company back, Export Development Canada (EDC) offers solutions that include risk management services, insurance, financing, bonding and guarantees, and more.
  • Hundreds of small business grants and loans programs exist to help businesses expand, subsidize hiring, and allow firms to take part in projects and activities proven to increase global competitiveness. Business service firms offer free educational workshops and webinars for established small to mid-sized businesses across Canada.

Businesses should be using funding as part of their cash flow planning. By leveraging government grants and loans for business, they gain access to improved cash, accelerating the execution of strategic plans and thus enhancing their business growth capabilities.

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