[IMGCAP(1)]When it comes to working with entrepreneurs, there’s no hard and fast rule on how to best meet their needs.

Entrepreneurs are creative risk takers who have put a lot on the line to make their venture succeed. They understand the business world and what it takes to meet customer demand, but most would admit they’re not financial experts.

According to a recent Sleeter Group survey, about half of small businesses have switched accounting firms at some point due to lack of expected services. While meeting the needs of small businesses can be tricky, there are simple ways to beat these odds. Giving entrepreneurs access to the data they need while still sticking to the basics is sure to keep your small business clients around for the long haul.

Offer Access to Data
Entrepreneurs are experimenters and they’re not afraid to make sudden changes to their businesses. But, by definition, entrepreneurs are business owners that have taken a greater than normal financial risk to do so. Thus, when they’re struck by new ideas that could help grow their business, they’re conscious about how any changes will impact them financially.

Since it is common for entrepreneurs to have new ideas at a moment’s notice, they often need to review financial data immediately. This is when they turn to accountants to provide data and crunch numbers. But this can create an increased burden on the accountants who are asked to provide immediate assistance and frustration on the part of the entrepreneur when they don’t get the numbers the need.

To develop the most effective relationship possible, accountants working with entrepreneurs should take advantage of cloud-based, online dashboards that automatically import QuickBooks data. This way, the client can access the numbers in an easily digestible format from any device and at any time, and the accountant can still manage the data within QuickBooks and do the job they were hired to do.

Give Strategic Advice
While entrepreneurs are financially conscious, they’re by no means experts. This is where accountants can play the role of broader financial advisors. The Sleeter Group survey found that, not surprisingly, small businesses look to their accountants first for financial advice. The survey also found that while traditional services such as audits and tax preparation were the top services that business clients want from an accounting firm, business planning and strategy ranked high on the list, with 25 percent of respondents expressing a need for both services.

Once you’ve given your entrepreneurial clients access to their business data, and they’ve had the ability to digest and think about possible options, they’re likely to turn to you for the final say. You are the expert who can help them determine how much they can afford to spend, what changes they need to make to save money and how much more revenue they need to meet goals. This is where you can assert your role and remain relevant year-round.

Don’t Forget the Basics
Now that you’ve given your client the data they need to effectively run their business, don’t forget that entrepreneurs are still creative-minded. Taxes and audits are unfamiliar territory and entrepreneurs view these tasks as the boring aspects of the business world. This is where they will likely give the reins to you 100 percent. As the Sleeter Group survey revealed, nearly 70 percent of survey respondents said they turn to accountants for tax planning and roughly 45 percent said they needed help with representation at government audits.

For CPAs, it’s important to meet the needs of this highly diverse group of business professionals, or risk losing these clients to another firm. So, give your client anywhere, anytime access to the data they need while still acting as a financial advisor, but don’t forget about the basics.

Since 2007, Sabrina Parsons has served as CEO of Palo Alto Software, a company that creates business planning and tracking technology for small businesses. She and her husband, Noah, founded a U.K. software distribution company in 2001 that was acquired by Palo Alto Software in 2002. As CEO, Sabrina is a staunch supporter of entrepreneurs and often mentors her small business customers on effective financial planning techniques.

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