Match the Right Advisors to Your Online Business Needs

By Shannon Belew, Joel Elad

Half the battle of fixing a problem with your business website is realizing that it has a serious problem and needs help. Before you can tackle the other half of the problem — solving it — you have to find the right person to assist you.

First, take a look at the types of help available to you. Here are your options, depending on the severity of your problem, the amount of resources you have to spend, and your comfort level in seeking outside consultation:

  • Trusted advisors: You can usually find two types of trusted advisors:

    • The people closest to you whom you already turn to regularly for help: They might be family members, college roommates, or former coworkers.

    • A structured set of advisors: If you’ve been in business for a while, you probably have in place a board of directors or an informal panel of business professionals who offer you advice occasionally. Or perhaps you belong to, and network with, a group of industry professionals, and you serve as resources for one another.

  • Free resources: These nonprofit organizations, government-sponsored entities, and membership-based associations typically offer counseling and business advice at no charge (or for a nominal fee or donation). These groups often consist of retired executives or employed professionals who enjoy mentoring and advising others.

    The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) is one of many organizations that offer free resources to small businesses at all stages, from start-up to mature businesses. SCORE offers online training and guidance from its membership of retired professionals. Be sure to check out its mentoring section, which is designed to give you immediate and personal support. You can visit SCORE.

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  • Professional consultants: The defining characteristic in this category of resources is that you pay money for the services you receive. Additionally, these people have specific expertise in the area in which you need assistance. You also have a formal relationship with a paid consultant because you sign a contract for services. Professionals can be independent consultants, or you can hire a larger consulting firm or associate firm.

Use the stable of resources you probably already cultivated in the course of running your business. If a trusted advisor has expertise in your area of need, go to that person for help. If your problem is more complicated or you don’t know anyone in that field, tap in to other free resources. Exhaust your free resources before shelling out money for professionals.