The economic crisis is prompting more and more small-business owners to turn to their accountants for advice, according to a new survey.

Nearly 80 percent of the small-business owners said that they would feel more confident having an accountant as a close business advisor during this time. The survey, by accounting and tax software developer Intuit, polled 250 accountants and 250 small-business owners last summer and compared the results to a survey of 250 small-business owners in January of this year.

Small-business owners’ biggest concerns have changed in that time. They are no longer worried about “finding time to develop and run my business.” This previously was the second-largest concern in the summer 2008 survey; it has dropped more than 50 percent in the January 2009 survey, landing right before “keeping up with the competition” (6 percent).

The No. 1 worry that keeps small-business owners up at night is paying their bills, according to 41 percent of the respondents, nearly a 10 percentage point increase in the past six months.

The number of small-business owners who say that they are “not at all” optimistic about the continued growth/success of their business has more than doubled in six months, from 7 to 17 percent. Seventy-three percent of accountants are proactively advising their clients on how to conduct business during the economic downturn.

In order to help small-business owners weather the economic storm, 66 percent of accountants have increased the range of services they offer, including business consulting, payroll services, tax services, bookkeeping and online accounting. More than 90 percent of accountants and small-business owners are taking almost identical steps to help maintain the success and growth of their firms, including increased networking, adding new services or products, and training and education.

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