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Finding a financial helper

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Trying to find financial planning services for your company can be like walking the giant aisles of a home-supply store. There are a lot of flashy products that seem to make sense, but where to begin?

On top of that, seeking financial advice isn’t something a do-it-yourself entrepreneur is often eager to do.

“As business owners, we are control freaks,” says Desiree Headings, a senior executive at Salem-based financial planning firm Willamette Financial Group. “We don’t want to be transparent.”

But opening your books to a financial planner is exactly what you need to do, so it’s a wise idea to be cautious and be sure you’re working with the right planner and firm. After all, we’re talking about the financial health and future of your company.

Assessing the financial service needs of the company rests on your ability as a leader to navigate the ever-changing maze of employee benefit and retirement programs, banking and investments, and tax concerns. Increasingly popular is “succession planning,” experts say, which considers the impact on the value of a business when its leader wants to sell or leave the company.

All of these financial considerations are subject to constant legal changes. So unless you are a multi-tasking businessperson by day and finance lawyer by night, you need a financial planner to help you stay on top of your financial obligations by making sure the business is in compliance, says Jana Basden, director of investments at Portland-based Rosenbaum Financial.

“The biggest issue is the risk of being held liable,” Basden says.

Many financial planning firms aspire to be all things to all businesses, but the regulatory environment is making it harder to be that, says Headings. A big company may tout that it will oversee all of your financial planning needs, though it may have limited expertise in a particular service you are seeking. Smaller financial planning firms may have limited services and financial products, but they often specialize in at least one. Make sure you ask planners their specialty and years of experience.

Planners with a lot of clients may set your company on a financial course without regular check-ups. Make sure your overall financial plan is re-evaluated at least once a year, says Headings.

As when buying any important service, ask for references. And when you meet with a planner, remember that you are interviewing them.

“It’s not always a good fit,” says Headings. “They may not be helping you get to your business goals.”

JASON SHUFFLER

 
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