When I launched my small business over five years ago, I took a course at the Toronto Business Development Centre. One of the first things I learned was this: be sure you have three good people in your corner — a good bookkeeper, a good accountant, and a good lawyer.
I have been fortunate to have met and worked with each of these professionals over the past five years.
A Good Bookkeeper
I met my current bookkeeper through a friend of mine who was setting up his own business. Plus, she was the bookkeeper (and still is) of the food co-op I was then a member of.
When I phoned her one weekday morning, she gave me a list of rules she expected of her clients, one of which was that she would not accept green garbage bags full of receipts. I assured her I was more organized than that and kept my expense receipts and invoices in good order. We agreed to meet, and she agreed to work with me.
One of her first tasks was to straighten out the mess from my first bookkeeper (who, unfortunately, was disorganized and a bit careless in her bookkeeping approach). It took several months of careful sorting to work things out and get my books in good order. Denise handled the work with professionalism, courtesy, and perceptiveness. We have been working together now for three years. Each month after she updates the books, we sit down together to review how things are going. She asks good questions and makes invaluable suggestions that help me keep my business on track.
A Good Accountant
Then it was time to find an accountant. Denise and I agreed we needed an accountant’s perspective on how the company was doing. I wasn’t sure how to go about finding the right person. Then I remembered that at Sumach Press (where I worked for several years) we had a good accountant working with us.
I phoned one of my ex-Sumachian colleagues to ask her for his name and contact information. She gave it to me willingly and assured me I’d be in good hands. I made the call and had a long conversation with Peter about my business, and then I sent him my books.
Our first, second, and now third meetings have been supportive and instructive. Having his perspective on the financial life of my business is beyond invaluable. Not only does Peter provide financial overviews and tips for improvements, he also provides sound advice on how to improve sales and networking, all of which develops my business acumen. He brings ideas to our meetings that open up new possibilities for me, and often remove the strain of everyday management. And he assures me that, overall, I’m doing a good job.
The feedback and instruction I receive from Denise and Peter have added value to my business.
A Good Lawyer
I met the third good professional ahead of meeting Denise and Peter. When I first launched TEC, a situation arose with a contract staff and I found myself in need of a lawyer. I was referred to him through a legal clinic, and I made the call. He met with me for a free half-hour consult, and then took on my case. I paid a very reasonable fee, and it was worth every penny (still in circulation at the time).Working together to solve the situation at hand, we developed a freelance contract that I now use when I hire contract staff. Meeting with him and finding a solution to the problem gave me very important insights into the value and role of contracts in any business, including mine.
Take the Advice
To anyone launching a new business out there, follow this advice: find a good bookkeeper, a good accountant, and a good lawyer. Once you do, you know you’ll have these professionals in your corner, and they’ll be there for you when you need to turn to them for advice and support.