Ask the Professionals

Business owners can’t possibly know everything there is about business. As an entrepreneur, you may have to rely on others for professional advice.

The first professional you may meet is your NLOWE Start-up or Growth Business Advisor. Your NLOWE Advisor can provide you with information in a number of areas from human resources and basic accounting, to social media and finance. There are areas, though, we recommend you seek professional advice including business law, accounting and banking. These professionals can provide you with information to put you on the right path.

Before you meet with a professional, you should be prepared. Have some questions ready so you get the most out of your time with them and to ensure that you don’t forget any important questions. Also, don’t be afraid to shop around and find the right professional who is the best fit for you. Remember, you will have a long relationship with them so it’s best to be comfortable from the get-go.

Below is a question checklist to get you ready for meeting with a professional. Check off the questions that apply to you. Pencil in any additional questions you have.

Lawyer

A lawyer can guide you on legal issues and ensure that you steer clear of any in the future. When meeting with a lawyer, bring documents you may need reviewed, such as contracts or agreements. Also be sure to bring your list of questions:

  • How do I protect my company name? This is important to ask in order to ensure you’re not using a name that’s already in use or trademarked. This could not only bring a wave of legal issues your way, but confuse your customers. You also need to protect yourself from others who may try to use your company name in the future.
  • What legal issues should I be aware of when starting a business? It’s important to be prepared for any issues that may occur while running your business.
  • What form of business should I go with? Whether it’s a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or incorporation, there are legal issues and liabilities of which you should be aware. It is important to understand which form is best for you and your business. Also, partnerships can change over time, so make sure you know up front how things will play out legally should one of you wish to end the partnership.
  • How will CASL affect my business? Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation reduces harmful effects of spam and regulates a secure online marketplace. These changes affect how businesses communicate with their customers, suppliers and business partners. It is necessary for you to understand how this new legislation can impact your business.
  • What should I consider before taking on investors? When growing your business, you may need investment capital; it is important to consider legal issues that may arise when taking on new investors.
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Accountant

An accountant can help you set up and maintain efficient tax records. They can also show you how to handle payroll and prepare tax returns and financial statements. When setting up a meeting with an accountant, bring your tax returns, payroll reports, and your business plan. You should also prepare questions in advance:

  • What records do I need to keep? Knowing what you should keep and what your accountant will want to see allows you to organize your business.
  • Which accounting software should I use? You need a system that works for your business; one that’s not too complicated but will grow with your company.
  • What’s my break-even point? Determining your break-even point will show when you’re profitable.
  • How does my business compare with others? When your mind is absorbed in your own business it is hard to have perspective and see how other businesses are doing. Professional advice will show where you are and where you need to be.
  • How can I reduce expenses without compromising quality? An accountant can find ways of cutting costs that you can’t see yourself.
  • What’s my bottom line? Is it worth the energy and investment I have put into it? It is important to know that you are putting your time, energy and investments into something that’s worth it.
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Banker

A banker can provide financial advice, investment guidance and guide you on loan options. Building a relationship with your banker is important as they can help you through all stages of the growth of your business. When meeting your banker, bring your business plan and any personal and business financial documents. Also, be sure to have questions ready:

  • What is the term, interest rate and payment schedule of a loan? This is important to ask, as it will help determine whether your business can afford the loan.
  • What is the cumulative interest to be paid on a loan? Interest rates can be deceiving. Knowing the full amount of interest you will be paying over the entire term, can help determine whether the loan is worth the cost of borrowing.
  • How do I determine an amount for Goodwill? Goodwill is the value of a company’s reputation as an asset. During the sale of a business or takeover, Goodwill can be difficult to determine to please the buyer, seller and lender.
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