Logistics are not the most exciting aspect of starting up a business, but having your logistics in order can mean the difference between success and failure. Having your books in order, your contracts buttoned up, your money safely managed and your downside covered are each critical to your personal and business future. Accountants, lawyers, bankers, insurance agents—the big four—are some of the people that can help you get organized and put you on a path to starting up smart. These service providers will be instrumental as you grow, too.
In addition to the “big four,” there are other service providers that may be vital to your business success. For example, you might need a website developer or a realtor – it just depends on your business model and plan.
Before you start your search for these service providers, it’s important to know what you want to accomplish with each of them, and to set a well-defined budget to meet your goals. Once you’ve hired these professionals, you should work with them to establish clear milestones to reach, a strict timeline for reaching them and a plan for communicating with each other along the way.
Regardless of who you retain, they should be well-versed in assisting entrepreneurs, and they should understand the nature of your industry. Most importantly, you should be able to trust them. Therefore, the best way to find these service providers is through referrals from your friends and business associates.
In this step, we will focus on nine areas of logistics:
- Legal Services
- Information Technology
- Website Development
- Merchant Banking/e-Commerce
- Real Estate
Accountants bring structure and order to your business and help you plan for current and future needs. They can help you choose a structure for your business, file the paperwork to do so, and advise you on tax-related issues and account management. Accountants can also help you set up financial timelines with potential revenue and expenses so that you can accurately project your company's cash flow.
Once your business is formed, accountants can assist you with ongoing bookkeeping, payroll and financial analysis and management. In fact, many businesses bring in an outside accountant once a week to assist with payroll and bookkeeping.
Like attorneys, accountants generally charge by the hour or on a project basis, depending on the work. The amount charged can vary by geographic location and experience level of the accountant.
Questions to ask a prospective accountant:
- Do you specialize in businesses like mine?
- Are you qualified to prepare income tax returns as well as keep my books?
- Can you provide me with references from clients similar to me?
- Can you explain your fee structure?
- Are you a CPA (certified public accountant)?
You’ll also need an accounting software package like Microsoft Office Accounting or Quickbooks to track all of the financial transactions in your business on a daily basis. Maintaining your financials in an accounting program helps you stay organized throughout the year, and makes things much easier come tax time when your accountant needs to decipher your books and prepare your tax returns.