One thing to remember when it comes to legal issues and financial issues in business is that every state and even city and county have different rules and laws that you will have to follow. This is the main reason you need to hire someone local to you. They are aware of the federal issues, but they are immersed in the local issues and will know more. When you decide to hire any professional to help you, you should ask plenty of questions during your first meeting.
- What Business Entity Should I Choose? – They should ask you about what you do for a business in order to answer this question properly. When they answer, you remember to look for the advantages and disadvantages of each answer.
- How Can I Minimize My Risk for My Family? – They’ll ask you about your family to give you some ideas about how you can lower your risk. For example, they may suggest a will, a different business structure, or other ideas.
- How Do I Protect My Intellectual Property? – Listen for them to give you either the answer you’ll need to see a different lawyer whom they can recommend or to provide you with examples of experience they have dealing with this.
- What Type of Business Contracts Do I Need? – You should, of course, have an idea of what you think you need. Then listen to their advice about it.
- How Do I Know the Name I Want is Legally Available? – They will give you information about how they conduct a name search and the fees associated with it.
- What Type of Accounting Do I Need to Use for My Business Type? – They’ll give you more information about whether you should do cash-basis or accrual-basis accounting and why.
- What Software Do You Recommend for Accounting? – This can give you some clues about whether you want to work with them. It’s easier if they use a mainstream system so that you can switch services.
- Do You Provide a Part-Time Bookkeeper as a Cost Savings to Small Business Owners? – Some CPA firms will send a bookkeeper right to your home or office to help you set up your chart of accounts (you can also take in your laptop). Then the bookkeeper instead of the CPA will do most of the work with you, thus lowering your costs.
- How Do You See Our Professional Relationship? – They can give you an idea about the boundaries they expect. For example, will you email them, snail-mail them, text them, call them, make an appointment to deal with problems?
- How Much Will This Cost? Can I set a limit? – They will tell you what the retainer is, whether you pay it yearly, and how much each billing will cost and how it will be deducted and so forth.
- What Strategies for Savings Do You Have in Mind? – Ask them this question regarding help for you as a business, to save money, reduce risk, and personally for you and your family.
- Do You Have References? – You can read online reviews, but some attorneys will have some people who have agreed to provide a reference for them. It is harder, though, because everything you do with your lawyer is private.
Before you even ask these questions, you should have in mind some answers you prefer based on your research. However, don’t be stuck to your own answers. Listen to the professional and ask follow-up questions if you’re unsure about why they are answering the way they are. Remember that you are interviewing someone who is going to be responsible for advising you about significant legal and financial matters. No question is dumb.
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