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What is a business advisor and how can you hire the right one?

Business planning, financial projections, employee management, and customer acquisitions are just a few of the issues that small business owners wrestle with. Life’s even more chaotic for startups or rapidly-growing companies.

Running your own business is a lot of work — with a lot of moving parts. Any help you can get with your business is likely appreciated. So what if there’s someone who can help with business plans, marketing, and beyond? Meet the business advisor.

What is a business advisor?

When it comes to business, you have more niche advisors available than anyone could ever imagine. You have financial advisors, legal consultants, business planners, and so on. While these specialists each have their place, you don’t always need them.

A business advisor is a strategist who works with your company to help with planning, finances, marketing, and even development. Unlike the previously mentioned advisors, a business advisor is able to do a bit of everything. Think of them as an extension of yourself as the business owner, capable of lending their expertise where needed and spending time researching the areas where there’s the greatest business need.

For example, let’s say you’re about to release a new product. You know a successful launch for this product could be huge for your business, but you’re also swamped with general business management. A business advisor could help you with marketing the new product, allowing you to focus more on the management side of things where your presence is required.

7 tips for finding a business advisor

It’s clear business advisors can be a big asset to your business. But how do you find a good one? There are some things to be aware of when hiring a business advisor, as some will be stronger than others. Here are some tips to find the perfect small business advisor, so you can score a few more touchdowns and experience a lot fewer fumbles.

1. Look for an advisor who’s managed a small business

Small businesses are a different animal from large corporations. Find a business coach who understands the special challenges of small businesses, including recruiting and retaining employees, securing capital funding, managing product marketing, and keeping up with technology.

Additionally, target an advisor who had success with your biggest business challenge. For instance, if your main roadblock is distribution, target an advisor who is a distribution channels expert.

2. Look for an advisor with credentials

A business advisor doesn’t necessarily need credentials, a special license, or a degree to give their opinion on how you should run your business, but it doesn’t hurt.

Because anyone can set up shop as an advisor, look for someone with a business degree, an MBA, or other coaching credentials such as CPCP (Certified Professional Coach Program), ACC (Associate Certified Coach), PCC (Professional Certified Coach), or MCC (Master Certified Coach) for added peace of mind that you’re getting good advice.

3. Choose an advisor who focuses on your niche

An advisor who specializes in your industry will speak your language, understand your business concerns, and know the competitive umbrella your business operates under. If you’re lucky, they’ll have great industry contacts too.

If you can’t find any business advisors in your specific niche, at least look for one who specializes in small businesses, per the first tip on this list. The importance of an advisor who understands small businesses can’t be stated enough.

4. Tap into available organizations

There are a number of great organizations available that offer advisory services or can help you find a small business advisor.

For example, SCORE Counselors of America’s Small Business is a nonprofit organization that educated entrepreneurially-minded individuals nationwide. They offer free help with small business planning as well as other advice.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is also a great resource for finding information about advisors, as well as general business information.

5. Post a job listing

This may not be a total shock, but you can always post a job listing for a business advisor. While this can give mixed results and take more time than some of the other options on this list, it could help you find a candidate who fits your exact needs.

Post the listing on any of the big job boards, like Indeed or LinkedIn, to get a wide variety of candidates. Make sure your job listing specifies what type of business you run, what kind of experience you’re looking for, and whether there’s a specific business background or set of skills you’d prefer. You’ll also want to decide at this point if you need a full-time advisor, part-time, or even a freelance contractor as needed.

If you don’t find the right candidate through a job posting, you’re only out the time it took to post the job. But you could wind up with the perfect candidate who will help you carry your business onward and upward.

Posting new jobs is an in depth process, so make sure you read on up the best job posting sites to find your next great hire.

6. Ask for referrals

Last but not least, ask your mentors, work associates, and members of your social network who they have used and would recommend in a business advisor capacity. Be specific about what you’re looking for and do additional research on anyone they recommend.

Getting the most out of a business advisor

Success with a business advisor isn’t as easy as hiring them and letting them do their thing. Their success is partially dependent on your input and support as well. The following tips can set you and your business advisor up for a great partnership.

Discuss your industry before hiring

A business advisor can claim to know your industry, but if they don’t fully understand it, both of you will have a rough time. Discuss your industry at length before hiring them to ensure they understand the ins and outs of your niche. An advisor who truly understands your industry can offer advice based on firsthand experience.

Set boundaries

A professional small business advisor will stay where you want them. This makes it important to set boundaries early on, determining how hands on or off you want them to be. Do you want an advisor who helps with financial planning? Or do you want them to take a bird’s eye view and handle big picture strategy? Make it clear from day one how involved they’ll be in day-to-day operations.

Involve them in your business plan

Depending on where your business is in its development, your business plan may be a distant memory or the ink may still be damp. Either way, having your business advisor look over your business plan isn’t a bad idea. You’ve seen it numerous times so you may be overlooking something. A business advisor will bring a fresh perspective and help you see any underlying problems.

Set goals

Just like a business needs a business plan, a business advisor needs goals. Before hiring an advisor, think about milestones or goals you’d like an advisor to help you reach. Then go over these goals with your advisor after hiring them. This can be a great way to ensure you don’t have an advisor who’s simply costing you money, but have one who’s actually moving your business in the direction you want to go.

Make it a team sport

Give your team access to your business advisor. Your employees have unique perspectives that can be beneficial to the advisor and help them get a clearer picture of your business and make more educated decisions. Your employees may also have fresh ideas that could help your company go in an unexpected, beneficial direction.

Taking your business to the next level

A business advisor can help you grow your small business while taking stressful items off your plate. You created your business, and your vision requires your attention. With a business advisor backing you up, you’ll be able to spend more time focusing on your vision and less time stressing about strategy, marketing, and beyond.

A business is a team sport. Take your time and do your research, and eventually you’ll find a business advisor who helps you take your business to the next level.

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