5 questions for small business owners who want to be your clients
November 24, 2015

Small business owners tend to be a fickle bunch in matters of accounting. When they come to you, their disposition and concern makes you wonder if they're not better off barging into your bedroom in the middle of the night. They like to keep things under their control and only come to you when they're thinking big or when they have problems. That doesn't mean you should turn them away, but you should ask the following questions in order to make them feel comfortable as well as get a sense of where they are in their operations. You may see a positive relationship develop as a result.

What's bothering you?
While that may not be the most formal way to address a potential new client, the simplest question to ask is what challenges they're facing in their business. Often, they're coming to you with a problem, so focusing on the most urgent matters at hand, in addition to learning about their big dreams, will enable you to build trust, according to Accounting Today.

How is business going?
Once you get a sense of the problem, you'll need a context for it to fit in. You'll want to get a sense of prior history at this small business, ensuring that it actually has a functional operation, as suggested by accountant Blake Christian. If the owner can't say realistically whether or not things are going consistently, you may see that as a red flag for a potentially bad client.

What does success look like to you?
Whether you seek to identify a problem, or if the owner has got big dreams and needs help, you want some metrics in place. The person you're talking to likely has some idea of what would be a good, if not neat, conclusion to their current situation, as noted by accounting expert Lisa Tierney. Getting a clear goal from them will help you figure out if they'll be a good client.

How are your employees?
When you ask about the owner's staff, you're not just showing your concern for their well-being. Labour law becomes an issue for accountants simply because businesses have to pay certain wages based on provincial guidelines. Be sure to ask about payroll, what structure the business has in place for staffing and what benefits they offer.

What are your plans for the next 12 months?
Sometimes, the reason an owner has a problem is because he or she didn't plan for certain variables when he or she tried to do something for the business. To get clients thinking on the right track, you should inquire about what they intend to do overall in the foreseeable future. Getting entrepreneurs to understand they need a plan is essential to having an effective relationship with them.

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