Choosing and working with business advisers

Business advisers are professionals who give business owners (and employees) specialised advice on operating a business.

Examples of business advisers include:

  • financial advisers
  • legal specialists
  • accountants
  • bankers
  • insurance brokers.

Getting professional advice from a business adviser can be helpful at all stages of the business lifecycle—start-up, growth, expansion or succession and closing.

Business advisers can help you:

  • identify and reach your business goals
  • make decisions at key phases of the business lifecycle (e.g. expansion or succession)
  • extend the capability of managers and staff
  • negotiate contracts and other complex documents
  • understand and comply with regulations
  • minimise business risk
  • help with specialised activities (e.g. commercialisation, innovation and export).

On this page

Advice for different business stages

The type of business advice that you might need will depend on the stage that your business is at.

When starting your business, you may need business advice in:

  • legal matters
  • finance
  • mentoring
  • networking.

Professional advice in this stage can help you:

  • objectively consider the advantages and disadvantages of your business idea
  • consider aspects of the business idea you may not have previously thought of
  • streamline your thinking and reduce any unnecessary complexity
  • save time on ideas that might be already on the market
  • understand the steps for attracting investors to your business
  • understand the process of commercialising a product
  • identify future government investment in industry innovation
  • understand export markets and how to secure investment.

Advice sources

Advice for the start-up stage of business is varied and diverse. Many are free to access or relatively low cost.

Sources of advice include the following.

Legal

Financial

Mentoring

Networking

When your business is in an early growth stage, you may require advice in the following areas.

Advice sources

There are many sources you can go to for advice at this stage of business.

Sources include:

  • a lawyer for legal advice on contracts and growth initiatives
  • formal mentoring programs (e.g. Small Business Solutions – TAFE Queensland)
  • a business mentor or specialised consultant for advice on applying for grants for business development and growth
  • chambers of commerce.

When your business is established and has reached a higher growth and expansion phase, you may need advice on:

  • commercialisation
  • innovation
  • exporting
  • advisory boards.

Advice sources

Sources at this stage include:

  • advice on how to apply for larger grants (commercialisation or innovation grants)—for example, Advance Queensland
  • export market advice from a specialist or through Austrade
  • an accountant, financial adviser or lawyer for specialised financial or legal advice
  • business consultant advice on how to set up an advisory board.

In the succession planning or closing stage of the business lifecycle, you may require specialised legal and financial advice.

Learn about workforce planning for small business.

Advice sources

At this stage you might consult with:

  • business brokers
  • accountants
  • financial advisers
  • lawyers
  • human resources specialists.

Types of professional advice

Various professionals can give you advice to help improve and grow your business.

Mentors can provide advice on many aspects of business ownership, tailored to your circumstances, including:

  • leadership
  • communication
  • general business skills
  • time management
  • planning
  • delegation
  • work–life balance
  • personal health and wellbeing
  • goal setting
  • digital skills.

You can find mentors for specific groups or specialties—for example, the Female Founder Impact Program provides mentoring for female business owners.

Read more about business mentoring.

Legal professionals can advise on:

Lawyers can provide specialised advice and solutions for complex legal matters. This can help ensure your business is compliant with regulatory and government requirements.

Accountants can assist with many different financial aspects of the business, including:

Accountants will often work closely with or refer you to a business bookkeeper. They can help you ensure your business meets the requirements of the ATO.

Accountants can also help you understand your business's financial position and benchmarks for your industry.

Read more about working with accountants and financial advisers.

Financial advisers provide specialised financial advice for you as a business owner, which will focus on long-term wealth creation and be tailored to your circumstances.

Financial advisers can help you with:

  • superannuation
  • investments and financial products
  • business structures
  • wealth management (personal and business).

Read more about working with accountants and financial advisers.

Banks can provide you with specialised advice on your business banking products, for example:

  • business banking accounts
  • payment systems
  • loans
  • lines of credit
  • overdraft.

They can advise you on the benefits of products, how to use them and other products and services that may be helpful for you.

Insurance brokers can provide customised advice on various insurance products and services relevant to your business needs, such as:

  • public liability
  • accident cover
  • professional indemnity
  • business continuity
  • vehicles
  • equipment.

Read more about business insurance.

Export advisers can provide advice on:

  • export requirements in different locations
  • export strategies
  • resources for growth
  • logistics
  • product specifications
  • packaging.

Export advisers can help you successfully export products locally and internationally. Many advisers have connections to trade roadshows in selected countries and regions.

Visit Trade Investment Queensland to see their network of regional advisers who can give advice on commercialisation and trade investment options.

Commercial advisers provide advice on:

  • how to commercialise innovative products and services
  • advanced manufacturing processes, including engineering, robotics, renewable technologies and IT
  • how to navigate the intellectual property requirements of new products.

Commercial advisers can work with you to scale up your business. They often work as part of a team of advisers and can identify funding opportunities and help you accelerate growth.

Advance Queensland provides various programs and support that are tailored to small businesses and entrepreneurs in Queensland.

Innovation advisers can provide advice on:

  • innovation strategies
  • how to access funding for innovation
  • how to access further information on innovation relevant to your industry (e.g. networks, seminars)
  • investor and partner options.

Innovation advisers can provide you with specific strategies to help you innovate your products and services.

The My Innovation Advisor service offers a free 1-hour consultation with a commercialisation and innovation expert.

Your business may have digital elements or may be completely online. A digital service specialist (e.g. web developer, graphic designer) can help you develop or refine:

  • a business website
  • digital marketing material
  • social media engagement
  • copywriting.

Learn more about choosing digital services and specialists.

Marketing your business is one of your most important activities to build your customer base and increase sales. A marketing specialist can help you with specific tasks or developing a marketing strategy.

Read about using professional marketing services.

Choosing the right business adviser

When choosing the right business adviser for your business, you will need to determine the type of advice that you need and your budget. Research will help you choose an adviser that is specialised in the areas you need and appropriately qualified.

When deciding, you should consider:

  • your budget—advisers will charge different fees for their services and different charging models
  • the services they provide—some advisers will offer a broader range of services than others. In your initial conversations, clarify exactly what service you'll be receiving and how familiar the adviser is with your type of business or industry. Have they worked with a similar business owner before?
  • their availability—will the adviser have enough time to advise your business?
  • their level of experience and qualifications—check that your adviser has the relevant certification and accreditation to give you reliable advice
  • their reputation—check reviews or ask the adviser to provide you with client testimonials
  • suitability—how appropriate the advice will be for your stage of business? It will need to change as you operate and grow your business.

Checking qualifications

When choosing an adviser, try to find one that has been pre-qualified by a reputable agency or organisation. Pre-qualification can be provided by:

You can also get recommendations from trusted friends, other businesses or industry groups.

Check business adviser credentials by:

  • reviewing qualified and certified members of the relevant industry listed on industry websites (e.g. Chartered Practicing Accountants Australia, Queensland Law Society, Financial Planning Association)
  • consulting the list of professional registers available from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

Checking fees

After you have checked the qualifications of the business advisers you are considering, you will need to check their fees.

Any adviser operating under an Australian financial services (AFS) licence must give you 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.

Note: An AFS is not required when providing advice to non-retail businesses (e.g. wholesale clients).

Some advice will be provided free of charge, while other advice will have a high cost. It is important to ask for a full quote when you are deciding which adviser to choose.

Advisers may provide the initial consultation or advice brief for free and then go on to work for a fixed fee or hourly rate. Others work on commission.

Avoid choosing based only on cost

Be careful choosing an adviser based on cost alone—a higher fee may indicate the adviser has plenty of experience, while a lower fee may not be a bargain if the adviser has less experience. Higher fees do not always indicate experience.

Considerations when choosing a business adviser

Ask yourself the following questions to help you choose the right business adviser for your business.

  • What area of the business do you currently need advice or mentoring in (e.g. preparing a contract, winning a tender, developing general business skills)?
  • What options suit your stage of business (e.g. a free seminar series, innovation adviser, setting up an advisory board)?
  • What qualifications, registrations or certifications does the adviser need to have (e.g. Australian Financial Services Licence, Certified Practising Accountant)?
  • How often and where do you want to meet with the adviser (e.g. only online, at your workplace, in a business incubator)?
  • How long do you intend to work with the adviser (e.g. a 12-month project, long-term accountancy relationship, short contract preparation)?
  • What are the intended outcomes of the relationship (e.g. development of a commercialisation plan, preparation of a pitch to investors, export advice to expand into a target country)?
  • What is your budget (e.g. no cost, obtained via a grant, subsidised mentoring program, market rates for a professional service)?

How to work with business advisers

Establishing productive relationships with your business advisers is an important part of running a successful business.

To ensure you can work effectively with a business adviser, you should:

  • always prepare for meetings—having a clear agenda and desired outcomes for meetings will save you time and money
  • give accurate information about your business
  • let them know if you have confidential information
  • update them about any changes to your business.

It is important to have a contract in place with each of your advisers, which should include:

  • the scope of the arrangement (i.e. duration, costs, intended meeting times and services to be provided)
  • key performance indicators (KPIs) related to the goals—for example
    • tax planning report completed by an agreed date
    • introductions to potential investors that meet the requirements of the business and industry
    • selection of advisers for an advisory board to meet the identified needs of a project
  • a process for review
  • a process for complaints and grievances
  • a termination clause.

You can use a contract template but it should still be reviewed by a legal professional.

Reviewing business advisers

It is normal to out-grow your advisers. As the business grows and needs change, also the need for certain types of adviser changes.

It can be helpful to regularly review and update your business goals then use these goals to assess if your business adviser can meet your current and future needs.

If you have an ongoing relationship with a business adviser, it is worth reviewing your arrangements at least once a year. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • am I still getting value for money?
  • is the service informative and personalised to my business?
  • is my adviser available when I need them?
  • does my business adviser still suit my business needs?

If you answer no to these questions, then it may be time to look for an adviser who is better suited to your business needs.