Why You Should Build Deeper Client Relationships
As an accountant, your intimate knowledge of your small business clients’ financial health makes you one of their most valuable resources as their business expands and grows, but you don’t often connect with them enough.
The relationship between accountants and small businesses tends to be overwhelmingly transactional, be it quarterly meetings or once a year. Accountants, however, are small business owners' most trusted advisors and are in a unique position to provide additional value throughout the year.
With your expertise, you can advise your clients through their business’s growth process rather than just at the start or end of the year. Here are a few different areas where you can advise your small business clients and provide them with yearlong client value:
1. Growth Forecasting
Because you possess knowledge of your client’s business and finances, you have unique insight into potential growth opportunities. Whether it’s helping them initiate growth, finding areas to cut costs, or giving them advice on how to improve their ROI, your knowledge of their business’s financial health allows you to recognize new opportunities for growth and expansion.
Your added knowledge of market or industry trends can help your client generate useful financial projections that consider their business’s revenues, expenses, and their overall business model. Moreover, your advice can help your client turn their business’s historical data into a set of realistic goals for the year to come.
Discuss your client’s goals and help them prepare for the long term by identifying their business’s strengths and weaknesses; this will help deepen your relationship with them. Make sure to go over their baseline and map out several scenarios considering variables, such as price points, staffing levels, and marketing and advertising.
Devising several different types of growth forecasts – one that is ideal, one that is realistic, and another that is your client’s worst-case scenario (an aggressive forecast, a practical forecast, and a conservative forecast, respectively) – can be a great way to create an open conversation with your client about the future of their business. Helping your client with these growth forecasts can help them identify new opportunities for profit or prepare them for potential setbacks.
2. Business Planning
Through a comprehensive look at your client’s financial operations, you can assess whether or not they are ready for growth opportunities and guide them as they plan and build their business model or modify it. If your client is ready to expand, your expertise can help them determine the best way to financially fuel that growth for their business’ needs.
Some questions you can help your clients consider as they weigh potential growth opportunities are:
- How will your business generate revenue?
- Are you financially ready for unexpected costs?
- What price should I set for my new product or service?
By advising your client about potential costs and expenses incurred by new growth opportunities, you can help them be more proactive with their business decisions.
3. Lending-Financing Growth
With a myriad of financing options now available to small business owners, many have difficulty determining which loan is right for their business. As an accountant, you can advise your client in this decision-making process.
Prior to applying for a loan, small business owners must assess the state of their finances. Preparing and examining financial records is key to applying for a loan, and you can help your small business clients get their financial documents in order so that they can choose the right loan for their business and their budget.
While preparing receipts, bank statements, and other financial documents are an important part of the loan application process, demonstrating the ability to repay a potential loan is critically important. Loan qualifications and requirements may differ between lenders, but many determine loan eligibility by looking at personal and business credit scores, annual revenue, length of time in business, and cash flow.
Providing your small business clients with tips for improving their business’s cash flow can help them better prepare as they begin exploring their financing options. Building relationships with online lenders can also help you recognize loan opportunities that might be well-suited for your client when or if financing needs should arise.
As your client’s accountant, you can play a pivotal role in their success if you build a deeper, more personal relationship with them. Proactively reaching out to them throughout the year can be a good way to reinforce your desire to help them build their business.
If you show your clients that you are dependable, available, and personally invested in their business, they will feel more comfortable approaching you for business advice. Because the world of financing has changed immensely for small business owners in recent years, your clients must be savvier borrowers, and with the help of their trusted advisors, they can make better-informed business decisions.