Choosing the right business adviser

Choosing a business adviser involves doing some research to check qualifications and licences, areas of expertise and fees. Before you start this research, it will help to have a clear idea about the type of advice you need and can afford.

Check licences and qualifications

Before you deal with any business adviser, you should check to see if they are licensed and/or have legitimate qualifications.

Check the types of business advisers to see what licences different advisers require by law.

Compare fees and services

Your next step after checking licences is to compare the fees and services of different business advisers.

For example, anyone operating under an Australian financial services (AFS) licence is required by law to provide you with a financial services guide. This is an important document that:

  • explains the types of financial services offered by a business
  • describes the fees charged for these services.

Fees

Fees are an important consideration for many business owners, and different advisers charge different fees for their services. Some will work for a fixed fee, some will work for commission, and others may charge an hourly rate. Be careful of choosing an adviser based on cost alone. A higher fee may indicate the adviser has plenty of experience. A lower fee may not be a bargain if the adviser has less experience.

Services

Check that the services offered are the services you need. Different business advisers have different areas of expertise. For example, you probably wouldn't ask a property lawyer for advice about drafting an employee contract. It's also a good idea to check that the adviser has experience dealing with businesses the same size as your own.

Meet with your business adviser

Once you have narrowed down your search you should set up a meeting with potential advisers to discuss their fees, experience and how they can help your business. Check whether you will be charged for this meeting.

Come to these meetings prepared. Write down any questions you want to ask, and be clear about your business goals and what you need from the adviser. Ask lots of questions about their skills and experience. Listen carefully to their responses and take notes. Remember that you are still in the process of choosing an adviser, so do not feel obliged to make any commitments at this stage.

Before the meeting is over, ask for the details of two or three clients who you can contact for references.

Choosing an adviser

After meeting different business advisers you will then need to pick someone to work with. To help decide, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did I feel comfortable discussing my business with them?
  • Did they seem to understand my specific needs and future direction?
  • Were they familiar with my type of business and the industry environment?
  • Will they be available when I need them?
  • Can I afford their fees?

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