Friday, 07 September 2012 10:35

What to look for in an advisor

When becoming a business owner, trustee or beneficiary of a trust, or executor of an estate, there comes a time when seeking out a professional advisor is necessary. But where do you even begin to find that right advisor with all the necessary attributes?

In most situations, for example becoming a trustee, executor or business owner, an advisory team is needed because the specialties of each advisor are unique. There are several common qualities to look for in any advisor that will be the perfect fit for your team.

Smart Business spoke with Joseph R. Ramey, CPA, a Senior Manager of Accounting Tax Services at Zinner & Co. LLP, about the qualities you should look for.

Technical Strengths and Credentials

These qualities are fairly straightforward, and typically an advisor will display their credentials and area(s) of specialty on their website. When evaluating their technical expertise, look at their speaking engagements and for articles written in the specialty areas that are important to your situation and background. For example, if you just became an executor of an estate, you want to find an attorney that not only focuses on estate and probate, but also speaks on the topic and has authored articles in that area. Lastly, it is also important to note any professional groups or boards in which they participate; this will help in understanding how current they are in what is going on in their specialty.

Referrals

The best way to start looking for an advisor is by talking with your family and friends who may know or currently have trusted advisors. If your close circles of acquaintances are able to refer someone they work with, then you will have more comfort in knowing how that advisor will work with you as well. Another good referral source is your own current advisors from other professions. For example, if you are in need of an investment advisor, contact your accountant or attorney and see if they have a recommendation for you.

Personality

Sometimes the most important quality to evaluate and assess in an advisor is their personality. The most technically sound professional may not be the right fit because of differences in personalities. Always meet face-to-face with a potential advisor and evaluate how they speak with you and how you feel when you talk with them. If you walk away scratching your head trying to figure out what they were talking about, they may not be the right advisor for you.

At Zinner & Co., we maintain a vast network of professionals in various fields and are always able to recommend an advisor that will work best with you. Our Exclusive Service Provider Program (ESP) is a group of the "best of the best" advisors in their respected fields, which allows us to deliver a pre-screened list of quality referrals to our clients based on their specific needs.

Joseph R. Ramey, CPA, is a Senior Manager of Accounting Tax Services at Zinner & Co. LLP. Reach him at (216) 831-0733 or jramey@zinnerco.com.

Published in Cleveland

Growing your business is a big job, and you can’t do it yourself.

In order to successfully grow, you need to have a dedicated team of advisors who are working together to identify the issues your business faces and develop a comprehensive plan to move it forward, says Robert E. Coode, CSA, partner-in-charge of the Financial Services Group at Skoda Minotti.

“Any business executive, regardless of the age or size of the company, should make sure that an appropriate team of professionals is in place to serve on an advisory board,” says Coode. “That includes an attorney, a CPA, a financial advisor or planner, and an insurance agent or consultant.”

Smart Business spoke with Coode about how an advisory board of professionals working together can take your business to new heights.

How can all these disciplines working together help a company succeed?

Each of those advisors is working in a different discipline. The problem that occurs in many businesses is that while they may retain someone in each of these disciplines, each is operating in a vacuum as it relates to his or her client’s business.

Too often, when business owners have a legal problem, they call an attorney. Or when they have an accounting problem, they call their CPA. The problems arise when each is working independently because there are discussions taking place and decisions being made on the legal side that may have implications on the accounting side that the attorney is unaware of, and vice versa.

All of these advisors need to be in a room with the business owner to develop a comprehensive overview of the company. And it is the financial planner or advisor’s role to coordinate, because unless you have a quarterback coordinating those meetings, they are not going to happen because people are just too busy. This should be happening at least once a year, if not twice.

What would you say to business owners who are reluctant to invest in such a meeting?

It can be a difficult sell. Business owners are so involved in the day-to-day operations that it can be difficult to coordinate. They are majoring in the crisis on their desk today and the things that have to get done right now.

That is where the quarterback comes in. If the owner comes into work and has 10 problems on his or her desk, that person is not going to be thinking about coordinating a meeting of an advisory board. But if they have chosen a quarterback and given them the authority to plan the meeting, a meeting will be on the calendar, making it much more likely to happen. There is rarely a situation where the business owner says he or she is too busy to attend such a meeting. More than likely, that person wants to do it but is just too busy to put it together.

How should the meeting be structured?

The financial planner will provide an agenda and lead the discussion. At the initial meeting, there is a lot of time spent getting to know each other.

In subsequent meetings, each participant is encouraged to bring his or her major concerns relating to the client and the client’s business as it relates to structure, accounting, financial planning and insurance needs. Each participant brings an agenda item, and the owner will present three or four topics that he or she would like covered, such as transitioning the business or how his or her estate plan may be affected by the business.

But the meeting shouldn’t be too structured, because you want people to offer their input and be able to discuss new ideas as they arise.

What are the benefits of such an advisory board?

First of all, it forces the owner to go back and re-examine a variety of issues. For example, how the business is structured. Is it the right entity, be that a C Corp., an LLC or an S Corp., and what are the ramifications of that choice? Should the business be structured that way from a legal standpoint?

From an accounting standpoint, it’s an opportunity to sit down together and look at the numbers, income and balance sheet. It’s also an opportunity to look at expenses and how the business is spending money. Should it be spending it in different ways? How does it do business related to other similar businesses, both in the region and internationally? What are other businesses doing? By having these conversations, the professionals know that the client is serious about growing his or her business and is more likely to help that business grow by introducing it to new opportunities.

Businesses of any size can benefit from having such a board. Even if a business is just getting started, I wouldn’t advise moving ahead without the advice and input of a team of professionals.

Creating a team of trusted professionals and getting them working together for the good of your business can lead to far better results than simply meeting with them individually on an as-needed basis.

Robert E. Coode, CSA, is partner-in-charge of the Financial Services Group at Skoda Minotti. Reach him at (440) 449-6800 or bcoode@skodaminotti.com.

Published in Cleveland