Adding Value to Your Small Business Client Relationships
Your value as a highly trained and experienced professional does not stop with tax return preparation. By the virtue of having access to the client’s financial records, you have insight into the lifeblood of their business.
For small business owners, that also includes the personal side of their life. By offering additional services to help small business tax clients get more holistic advice, you can save them from making expensive mistakes, help optimize the way they run the business, and even help them strengthen and preserve personal and business relationships.
Depending on your skill-set and preferences, you may consider the following services that are a natural extension of the tax work you already do.
Tax planning sessions
Taxes should not be a once-per-year marathon event! A tax planning session, offered in the summer or the fall leading up to the year-end close, can help clients understand their options, come better prepared, and save money. You can use the time to update them on new tax guidance that is relevant for their business, as well as help them understand tax consequences of business decisions.
Post busy season de-brief sessions
A post-busy season de-brief session with a client can allow you to share lessons learned, help them avoid pitfalls, and set everyone up for better collaboration next time.
Review buy/sell agreement with partners
Plans change. For small business partnerships, a timely review and update of the buy/sell agreement can save considerable money and headache. By making sure that the paperwork is in order and up to date, you can ensure that the partners are clear about expectations and timelines, and that there will be no surprises down the line.
Help with succession planning
Succession planning is a service that many business owners are reluctant to talk about, primarily because it deals with retirement and death – two subjects that are fraught with emotional charge. However, having a conversation about business transition is critical for entrepreneurs and their families, as the business often represents their biggest asset.
Some small business owners may be under the impression that transitioning management functions to a family member, or selling the business, would be a quick and easy task. In reality, successful business transitions take years of careful planning and alignment. Help your clients get started sooner rather than later for best results – financially and emotionally.
Retirement planning is a topic that is related to succession planning – have a conversation with your small business tax clients about maximizing their retirement savings, and making sure that they have a strategy for meeting their goals in retirement.
A small business owner without life insurance is leaving his family dangerously exposed in the event of his death, especially if the business represents the main cash flow source, and there is not a buy/sell agreement or a transition plan in place.
Charitable contributions consultation
Maximizing the value of charitable contributions is an important conversation to have with the established small business owners. Oftentimes, they are already involved in local community causes through sponsorships and charitable giving – so it is only a matter of adding a layer of strategic planning in order to maximize good outcomes on all sides.
Budget, including cash flow budget
Budget is critical for any small business. By helping your small business tax clients refine their budgets, you facilitate strategic thinking about goals, and putting concrete resources behind the initiatives that matter most. Cash flow analysis and budget can add a layer of insight, particularly if the business is subject to seasonal fluctuations or a long collection cycle.
Your small business clients are professionals in their own right. However, taxes are not their line of business.
As such, tax matters are rarely seen as urgent or important – but rather as a periodic nuisance. By following up and coaching them through the steps, you add a layer of accountability and support that many will appreciate. Sometimes, a monthly check-in call to remind them to organize their records, or a patient email follow up regarding a document they must bring in, can go a long way towards a better working relationship.
As you look at these and many other potential services you can offer to small business tax clients, keep in mind that it is best to select the services that you have the expertise and the natural inclination for. Consider also the ease of marketing them, and your willingness to do so. It is better to choose a few services and dedicate time and energy to growing them as an offering than to have a long list of service no one knows about or uses.