Build your agency’s team of advisors: Which roles do you need?

Written by: Karl Sakas

Successful business leaders rely on a team of advisors for specialized guidance on agency leadership, taxes, health, and more.

In my work with agency owners, the highest performers have an advisory team—going beyond their key employees and freelancers. As an Executive Coach, I’m one of their advisors—but I’m rarely their only advisor.

You technically don’t require outside advisors—but your advisory “dream team” can help you reach your professional and personal goals faster and more smoothly than if you worked on your own.

I’ve identified 10-12 key advisory roles for you to consider—and I use 10 of them myself (spanning more than a dozen people) as a business owner. Have you started building your agency’s roster of advisors? They’ll work in the background—where you get all the credit, but you don’t have to operate alone.

Build your agency’s team of advisors: 10-12 roles

Here are the 10-12 advisory roles, to help you decide which one(s) to recruit next. Although I accept referral fees, I don’t have a financial relationship with anyone listed here (beyond having paid them for their services).

1) Coach(es): For me, coaching is about accountability and advice—to help clients reach their goals as quickly, smoothly, and profitably as possible. I’ve had a life coach since 2014 (Laura Westman) and a sales coach since 2019 (Kristen Hill). They make a big impact, both professionally and personally. For my clients, I’m their Executive Coach, with a focus on agency-specific business and leadership advice. But consider therapy, too…

2) Therapist: I’ve been in therapy off and on since 2000, and it’s been very helpful. Unlike your close friends, a therapist is a neutral advisor, with training to help you work through underlying issues that get in your way. In-person is helpful… but I’ve worked with therapist Lizzie Fraser Konrath via video since 2019. If your mental health involves medication, you’ll need to engage a psychiatrist as well.

3) Executive Assistant (EA): Having an assistant makes your day-to-day life easier. And the best assistants also serve as an advisor—sharing insights to help you improve (aka “intelligent disobedience“). Here’s what to expect from an EA. If you can’t afford to hire an EA, consider delegating to a part-time Virtual Assistant (VA) first.

4) Lawyer(s): At a minimum, you should have a general business lawyer. A former boss of mine had three lawyers on-call: a contracts attorney, an HR specialist, and a litigator. That’s probably overkill; your attorney can refer you to a specialist if warranted. I work with two law firms: Matchstick Legal and Sharon Toerek, both of whom specialize in helping agencies.

5) HR Consultant: You need someone advising on specific legal issues around your team, including state-specific regulations. Your HR consultant is a cheaper option than a lawyer for day-to-day issues and can spare you major headaches. If you use a PEO for co-employment, they’d likely handle this. I work with Lori King of Human Resource Partners here in North Carolina.

6) Personal Trainer: If you love working out and can create your own program, you don’t need a personal trainer. In my case, I don’t enjoy working out—so my personal training sessions with Jason Abraham turn the workout into a meeting…and I don’t skip meetings. Having a trainer keeps me accountable, along with getting recommendations on travel-friendly workouts. After starting in-person, I now do sessions via video using key at-home equipment.

7) Financial Planner: I work with Russell Kroeger—a fee-only Certified Financial Planner (CFP) who’s also a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA). That means he acts as a “fiduciary,” where he puts my interests before his own. I found him via the XY Planning Network, which focuses on fee-only financial planners who serve Gen X and Gen Y clients. I like that Russell uses a coaching-style approach—his financial advice is designed to support my life goals, rather than existing in a vacuum. He’s shared good product-development advice, too.

8) Accountant and/or Tax Advisor: Don’t do your own taxes! A good accountant and/or a tax advisor will pay for themselves, in tax savings and/or headache-reduction. When I had an international tax question a few years ago, I got one-off advice from attorney Stewart Patton. Day-to-day, my business accountant does my business tax return, and then my CFP’s business partner—a CPA—does my personal taxes.

9) Insurance Agent: Insurance is complicated; you want someone on your side. You might need more than one agent, depending on your coverage. Here’s more about insurance coverage for marketing agencies.

10) Banker: You might not expect hands-on customer service for your personal banking… but you need it in your business. Your business banker can help you access loans or a Line of Credit (LoC). And they can also escalate problem-solving, if something goes wrong.

Optionally, you might add two more roles to your agency’s advisory team:

11) Nutritionist: What you eat makes a big impact on how you feel, which impact your productivity as an agency owner. Sometimes you can get nutrition advice through a personal trainer or life coach—that’s what I do—but you might prefer a specialist. Don’t forget sleep hygiene, too.

12) Spiritual Advisor: A spiritual advisor can enhance your life journey in ways others just can’t. They might support you on an unpaid basis—for instance, a pastor, priest, rabbi, or imam—or you might hire a spiritual coach. I don’t have a dedicated spiritual advisor—but I get support in this area from others on my advisory team.

Consider which advisory roles to combine vs. separate

You’ll need to decide which roles to combine versus handle separately. Some roles naturally overlap—while others tend to be more specialized.

  • For instance, I use one firm for business accounting and HR consulting, and another for financial planning and personal tax preparation. And I get support on nutrition from my life coach and my personal trainer.
  • In contrast, some people might prefer to work solely with a life coach or a therapist—or to have both, or to add a specialized business coach. You’ll need to find the approach that’s right for you and your agency.

You might initially start with a few generalists—so there’s less advice to integrate—and then add specialists if you find you need additional support. And you can mix-and-match ongoing and one-off advice.

QUESTION: Which role(s) do you plan to add to your agency’s advisory team?

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