As an accountant, you work with a variety of clients with different needs. One group of clients that can help you grow your business and expand your service offering is small business owners. Small business owners will likely need your assistance more than individual taxpayers and they face many different financial challenges. In this post, we round up 8 ways you can help small business clients be financially successful.
8 tips for helping small business clients succeed
1. Separate business finances from personal
Many business owners jump into opening their business without a true understanding of finances. Sure, they understand the goal is to turn a profit, but the nuances are where you step in. One of the biggest errors small business owners can make is allowing their personal and business finances to intertwine. For reasons obvious to you, this is a big no-no. Educate your client on how mixed business and personal finances can lead to confusion down the line, a lack of organization, and just the overall headache of creating more work for you and them when they already have a small business to focus on.
2. Point toward business banking
If your client currently has their personal and business finances under one roof, it’s time to talk to them about why that isn’t wise. Perhaps they were worried about having to organize two very different accounts, but as you know, it doesn’t have to be a challenge. Point your clients toward a digital small business bank that easily keeps their finances in a user-friendly snapshot on their phone. Aside from the legal and tax purposes of separating personal from business finances, this will give them an easy-to-understand view of their financial health.
To make matters easier on you, digital banking like this can even allow you access to view your clients transactions and books remotely, making it easier to prepare for meetings or provide you the foresight to reach out if you see suspicious patterns in their finances.
3. Navigate securing a loan
In these uneasy times for thousands of small business owners across the country, securing a loan may be the lifeline they need to make payroll or keep the doors open. For seasonal businesses whose usual busy season was impacted more severely by COVID-19, this is even more prevalent. As with many things when it comes to business finances, your client may not fully understand what they need or the process in which they should go about securing a loan. Whether you help them in an advisory role or take a more hands-on approach, the expertise you can lend may be the difference in your client bridging the next few months and being a client for life or struggling to make ends meet.
4. Explore growth opportunities
As a trusted partner, you surely understand that the small business owner’s day to day is anything but a constant routine. Just as they deal with a plethora of challenges each day, they are also confronted with the prospect of growth. As an accountant, you can have informed conversations with your client as to the financial health of their business. 70% of small business accountants see their relationships with owners becoming more strategic, with growth being a part of that strategy. Perhaps they are interested in opening a second location or have the ability to ramp up hiring.
Almost everything a small business owner does in their business boils down to finances, and talking about potential areas for growth can help position yourself as a valuable partner. If you want to get technical in your services, you may consider offering your client employee-based financial metrics such as what activities are bringing revenue and which aren’t aiding toward revenue goals. This will help empower your client to make well-judged decisions in terms of cutting their shortcomings and steering their business toward growth.
5. Advise in marketing
Giving marketing advice may not be right in your wheelhouse, but marketing and advertising cost money. Advising your client where and when to allocate marketing budgets can prove useful. While your client may be spending in one area, offer your expertise and insights from what other clients may be doing or offer perspective from the opposite side. Consider keeping up to date on marketing and advertising trends through a number of newsletters. Being well-versed in areas other than just accounting will help drive home your value to clients and allow them to look to you for advice on other aspects of their business.
6. Help with personal finances
If your client has a business that needs work on financial matters, odds are they could use some help with their personal finances. By being the one to handle all their financial holdings, it can help you paint a broader picture of where your client stands and what moves or risks they may or may not be able to take. Often finances are tied into wills and estate planning, yet another area you can assist them in.
7. Organize for tax season
When it gets down to brass tacks, one of your biggest roles in serving a client is helping them prepare for tax season. All the steps listed above will help you ensure the client is organized throughout the year so there aren’t any last second surprises just before the tax deadline. As you know though, you can save your client time and money by preparing them for tax season quarter by quarter. Setting aside funds that will be taxed also saves them headache and confusion down the road as opposed to taking out one lump sum.
8. Develop a succession plan
Depending on the stage in which your client is at in their business, they may be considering retirement plans, selling the business, or passing it down. All of these options along with others have financial implications. Regardless if your client is ready to step back immediately or down the line, it’s never too early to begin planning their succession. Nearly half of family businesses have no succession plan in place, and depending on the size of the operation, or if the passing of the guard is unexpected, it can be an extremely difficult process. Start by looping in the successor into financial conversations so they understand where the business stands and how they can make strategic moves now to put the business in the best possible position.
As is the case with almost everything, going above and beyond your normal service can truly separate you from the competition. When it comes to helping small businesses, this is exaggerated. Taking the additional time to lend your accounting and financial expertise and knowledge will not only help them thrive in the short and long term but will also cement you as an invaluable piece to their bigger team.