We celebrate the forming of our nation on Independence Day and we honor veterans on Memorial Day. Did you know that it wasn’t until 2011 that President Obama designated November 19th to be Entrepreneur’s Day. Better late than never but doesn’t it strike you that entrepreneurs deserve a lot more recognition? If it were up to me, everyday would be Entrepreneur’s Day. After all, small businesses have generated 64% of all net new jobs in the past 15 years.* It’s the entrepreneurs who are willing to risk it all to build something from nothing that are having the biggest impact on curing long term unemployment and growing our economy.
I remember when I was a kid (decades ago) entrepreneurialism didn’t get much respect. The corporate ladder was the path to wealth and security. Technology has changed all that. Even the smallest of companies can compete on a global stage accessing customers in every corner of the world. There are a lot of organizations that recognize the value of small businesses and are supporting them with special programs. For example, American Express OPEN launched Small Business Saturday and Goldman Sachs has its 10,000 Small Businesses program.
As trusted advisors to the small business community, what are YOU and YOUR firm doing to advocate for your clients? Providing accounting and tax services doesn’t count. The key word here is ADVOCATE.
Here are seven ideas to get you going . . .
1. Invite your clients to be part of a directory of providers that gets distributed to all firm employees and clients. Consider inviting the local bank and attorneys to help pay for the cost of producing the directory. Help your clients tell their business story so the directory has more value for everyone.
2. Encourage your employees to do business with clients as does Whitley Penn LLP of Fort Worth Texas. (Accounting Today May 2011)
3. Invite your clients to participate in any community projects your firm is involved in. This gives your client more visibility and to be seen associating with a great firm. By the way, if you are not comfortable inviting your clients to do business with each other or introducing them as a client, you should start looking for businesses you can be proud to be associated with.
4. Look for opportunities to generate business for your clients. Host a business building open house for your clients to network with each other. On a similar note, a struggling home improvement store started hosting coffee and doughnuts every Friday morning for all the contractors and subs. Those gatherings became a source of new business for everyone involved.
5. Host breakfast briefings once a month to address common concerns shared by business owners. The greatest gift you can give your clients is the gift of financial fluency. Using software such as $COPE IT! helps clients gain a better understanding about the connection between activities and outcomes so they can make better day-to-day management decisions.
6. Create an internet café in your office making it easy for clients to conduct business when they come to see you. I know you are thinking the goal is to get the clients in and out as fast as possible. Consider the example of the home improvement store and the good will and new business generated. We have to reframe our thinking. The more time you spend with clients, the more good will and business you will generate. Don’t be surprised if your clients end up hanging around with each other saying nice things about your firm.
7. Take your team on a field trip to visit a client’s business. Recently I was part of one of these “client field trips” and one of the firm members said, “I know someone who could use these services.”
8. What are you doing to help your clients improve their cash flow? The owner of a quarry and concrete business found their A/R days growing. To stem the tide, he had his controller teach their contractor customers how to do a better job of setting up contracts, collecting money, and filing mechanic’s liens. Guess who got their bill paid first?
I know there are a lot of firms doing great things to help their clients. If you are one of them, please add a comment to this article and share your ideas with each other. Let’s face it, without small businesses most accounting firms would struggle to exist. Sit down with your team and brainstorm ideas on how you can do more to advocate for your clients. Let your clients know how much you value their contribution to the economy and the communities they operate in.
*Did you know?
Represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms.
Employ just over half of all private sector employees.
Pay 44 percent of total U.S. private payroll.
Have generated 64 percent of net new jobs over the past 15 years.
Create more than half of the non-farm private gross domestic product (GDP).
Hire 40 percent of high tech workers (such as scientists, engineers, and computer programmers).
Are 52 percent home-based and 2 percent franchises.
Made up 97.3 percent of all identified exporters and produced 30.2 percent of the known export value in FY 2007.
Produce 13 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms; these patents are twice as likely as large firm patents to be among the one percent most cited.