The people and groups every small business owner should know

By Michelle van Schouwen

As a small business owner, you are probably an independent, confident person, ready and able to face challenges and opportunities on your own. Bear in mind that you’ll succeed, thrive, and sleep even better when you tap into the network of people and organizations every small business owner should know.

A good CPA: When you own a business, your tax and related legal obligations become more complex. Having a CPA a call or email away can save you thousands of dollars and a lot of stress.

One or more business attorneys: Whether you are organizing or reconfiguring your business structure, creating, or reviewing complex contracts, or fighting a lawsuit, you need competent and hopefully affordable legal counsel. It’s best to have those relationships established before you urgently need services.

A marketing/PR/advertising company that understands your business: As someone who ran a full-service marketing company for three decades, I can attest to the benefits of good marketing, especially when you introduce a new product, expand your target market, or add other benefits for your potential customers. Once you’ve engaged with a marketing company, they’ll remember you even when you don’t have an active marketing program, and will be able to pick up again when you are ready.

A payroll service: For a pittance, you can outsource payroll and its related tax deductions and payments. Of course, you will still want to monitor all activity to make sure it’s correct, but the time savings can be considerable.

Successful or experienced entrepreneurs and business owners: You can learn from people who’ve been in business longer, grown faster, or faced down more monsters. They may be in your industry or others. Even casual advice can last a lifetime. (One wonderful client said to me, “Never turn down an early payment when it’s offered.” I had been saying, “Oh, you can pay me later.”)

A life or business coach: I finally worked with business and life coaches two decades into company ownership. I should have done so earlier! The perspectives you can get from outside your own busy brain can be life-changing.

One or more groups or activities in which you can help others: Whether you want to mentor young entrepreneurs, participate on the board of a non-profit, serve as a Big Sister or Brother, support a local sports team, or whatever inspires you, get out and do something in addition to running your company. Even if you don’t have a lot of time. It’s good for your spirit… and that’s good for your business. Check out “I gave at the office. 17 ways to give back that are good for you and your small business.”

A small business organization that provides mentoring, education, and support: You can find a myriad of small and family business associations. Look locally or check out lists such as The Really Big List of Small Business Associations and Family Business Alliance list of affiliated centers and programs.

Who and what else might you need? A bank that knows you and is willing to make a loan if needed. A good physician, fitness coach, or nutritionist to help you keep healthy through stressful times. Friends to keep your life diversified and your mind open.

This final point is clear: Do not attempt business ownership as an island. Venture out and learn, seek, and share. You, your company, and even your community will be better when you do.


Michelle van Schouwen is principal of Q5 Analytics, providing advocacy and communications for climate change mitigation and adaptation. For 32 years, Michelle was president of van Schouwen Associates, LLC (vSA), a B2B marketing company. In 2017, van Schouwen Associates was acquired by Six-Point Creative Works, Inc. of Springfield, MA. Michelle is available for speaking engagements on topics including her work on climate crisis mitigation and Florida coastal water issues. She speaks to business and student groups about marketing launches and entrepreneurship and works with start-ups to support their development.

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