Small business owners need to use every opportunity they can to create new sales and growth, as well as to gain value out of their strategic relationships. The key is to build a network of key influencers among your contacts with a focus on complementary partnerships.
This means finding ways you can help others, while they can also help you. One of the most valuable partners on your business team is your small business accountant. Your CPA, along with your banker, business attorney and relationships with other business owners, can be one of the most strategic partners on your growth journey. Here are five ways that you can partner with your small business accountant and make sure they serve as a center of influence for your business:
1. Make time to discuss your growth plans.
The more that your small business accountant knows about your vision for the growth of your business, the more value they can bring to your efforts — not only as your accountant but as a fellow business executive and advisor. For example, if you are planning to add a new office location or build a company-owned building, your accountant may be able to recommend a commercial real estate agent or a construction general contractor who is reputable and can come as a recommended introduction.
2. Work diligently on your ABCs.
The lifeblood of your business is cash, and there are only a few ways to generate it. In addition to new sales revenue, the second most common method of generating cash is through loans from a bank for capital investments, working capital or operating lines of credit. That’s why you need to work diligently on your A-B-Cs, i.e. your Accountant-Banker Connections.
If your current banking relationship consists of little more than occasionally chatting with a teller at your nearest bank branch, then you need to re-evaluate your banking relationship. There’s perhaps no better person to talk to about this than your small business accountant, who can advise you on not only how to prepare for meetings with bankers, but also which commercial banks and nonprofit credit unions may be best-positioned to welcome you into their portfolio and extend credit to your growing business.
3. Build a referral partnership.
Your small business accountant is an expert advisor to numerous companies in a wide range of industries. Increasingly, small business owners are struggling to find an accountant that they feel comfortable with and who can effectively serve their business. Many accountants are focusing on companies at the larger end of the market, and avoiding small businesses while others who do focus on small business are often under-equipped to meet the complex needs of a variety of enterprises.
That means that other small business owners you know could benefit from working with an accountant like yours — a competent, strategic partner in their business. Consider making a number of professional referrals to your accountant in the coming months. If all goes well, make sure to sit down and discuss a possible referral partnership with your accountant that will benefit you both.
4. Invite your accountant to network with you, and ask to network with them.
Since your small business accountant serves you, that means they already have strong credentials when approaching other businesses like yours. Think about inviting your small business accountant to the next meeting for your chamber of commerce or business association as your guest.
One nice thing about networking with a strategic business partner is that people respond very well to the story of two business owners developing a successful, longstanding relationship, so this could benefit both of your reputations. In addition, ask your accountant about doing the same with them (but only after you’ve extended the invitation successfully first!).
5. Think now about the exit.
We’re living through a time of unprecedented change in the small business marketplace, and many business owners — especially those in the Baby Boomer generation — will be exiting their businesses soon. This may mean a strategic sale, it may mean a merger or acquisition process, or it may mean simply shutting the doors and walking away. Considering the time and effort you and other CEOs have put into your business, every business owner should plan to maximize the value of their business in time for a successful exit.
And there’s no better expert to discuss that with than your small business accountant. So if you know other business owners thinking about the future, whether they are younger or older, make sure to introduce them to your small business accountant (and don’t forget to discuss these issues with your CPA for your own business as well)!
These five strategies all focus on strengthening your relationship with your small business accountant in ways that will benefit you both. As a result, they represent an outstanding set of steps to help you begin building a network of centers of influence for your business.
Note: Learn more about how Sylvia Lagerquist, president of Haines & Lagerquist CPAs, was recognized as a leading Center of Influence in the Washington, D.C. business community here.