At several recent networking events, I have heard business and community leaders mention how important it is for entrepreneurs to foster an ongoing relationship with their banker. This ensures that asking for a loan isn’t a “cold call” but rather a conversation with someone who is well-versed on the goals and plans you have for your business. While I whole-heartedly agree that having a relationship with your lender is important, I also believe there are many other relationships a successful business owner will want to cultivate and nurture. Here’s my list of people who should be part of your circle of influence:
- Your local reference librarian- One of my tasks as DML’s Business Services Librarian is to connect entrepreneurs with credible, reliable and trustworthy resources and people who are supportive and helpful. I’m happy to share my network with you any time you need an introduction to any of the service providers mentioned here. Call me at 937-496-8631 or email me.
- A business adviser through the SBDC - Ohio Small Business Development Centers offer free comprehensive business management and education services for all businesses, whether they are just starting or looking to grow into a new market or territory. They can also assist with business planning, loan packaging assistance, and strategies for managing business opportunities and obstacles. The SBDC at The Entrepreneurs Center regularly offers courses covering bookkeeping, market research and information about starting a new business.
- An attorney- This suggestion is pretty self-explanatory. There will be many legal issues you may encounter as you setup your business and as you move forward. Having an established relationship with an attorney will save you lost sleep and time when an unexpected issue suddenly crops up.
- An accountant- I subscribe to the theory that business owners should do what they do best and outsource those tasks that are time-thieves and headache-creators. If accounting does not come naturally to you and you are staying up all night just to keep up with bill paying and payroll, find yourself an accountant you trust and forge a relationship. Yes, this relationship, like the one with an attorney, does not come free, but a small investment early may save you money in the long run when you avoid tax penalties and other fees because of botched books.
- A financial adviser and/ or credit counselor- In addition to a banker or lender, you need to have a good relationship with a financial adviser who can help you determine how much financial risk you can safely undertake when it comes to this new business venture. You may be so excited about making widgets that you are willing to roll over a 401K or take a second mortgage on your house. A good financial adviser can run the numbers and encourage you to give second and third thoughts before you sign any checks. A credit counselor is also important for some entrepreneurs whose personal financial standing may make it difficult to secure funding for your business. Dayton Metro Library has an established relationship with Consumer Credit Counseling Service Graceworks. You can reach them for an appointment at 937-643-2227.
- The local chamber of commerce- Chambers of commerce specialize in supporting business owners through advertising, networking events and advocacy. While chambers are membership-driven organizations, member fees are generally based on annual revenue, so this can be an affordable investment in the early days of your start-up. You can also take advantage of some events and programs without being a member by simply paying a higher registration fee.
- Yourself- Owning a business requires a huge commitment of time, energy and financial equity. Being passionate about providing a service or selling a product will only get you so far if you don’t have the drive and dedication to work long hours, to push through challenges, to meet opportunities head on. You also need to consider your skills and experience. Baking the world’s best cookies for your grandchildren is not enough to make you a successful bakery owner. Make sure you take time to consider your own personal goals, your level of commitment and your own history before moving forward with a business plan.