The financial needs of small-business owners pose unique challenges and rewards for financial advisors.
Working with entrepreneurs can be fulfilling, says Peter Andreana, a certified financial planner and partner with Continuum II Inc. in Burlington, Ont. Business owners’ financial plans can be very intricate and you can do a lot of good as their advisor.
The rewards come, Andreana says, “when you look at where they were before you started working with them and where they are today.”
Here are five tips to keep in mind if you plan on working with small-business owners:
1. Become the expert
Do your research before you start working with clients who run their own businesses.
Business owners are often pressed for time and may want the “Coles Notes” version of what you are discussing, says Andreana. That means you need to understand the subject matter inside and out.
You need to know both your client’s industry and all the financial matters small-business owners in general must consider.
2. Change the focus
One of the biggest challenges in working with small-business owners, Andreana says, is getting them to work on the business rather than in the business.
In other words, most business owners tend to focus on the day-to-day matters, he says. But as their advisor, your role is to get them to focus on the big picture — long-term goals for themselves and for their businesses.
That includes discussing issues such as holding companies, income splitting, corporate-owned policies, life insurance policies, investments and shareholders agreements.
3. Make yourself available
Keep a flexible schedule to make it easier to meet with your business-owner clients on their terms.
Small-business owners are busy, Andreana says, so they will want to meet with you in their offices or over lunch. They won’t necessarily have time to come to your office.
4. Know the team
Find out about the other professionals working with your client to make sure they can best help him or her.
You need to understand what sort of lawyer and account your client is working with, Andreana says. For example, if your client has an accountant who handles the day-to-day issues but perhaps doesn’t understand the longer-term tax issues of small businesses, you should introduce him or her to someone who does.
5. Read the shareholders’ agreement
If you work with small-business owners, make sure you discuss their shareholders’ agreements. That is a document signed by the company’s shareholders that outlines how the business will be run and the rights and obligations of those shareholders.
Often, small-business owners sign a shareholders’ agreement without fully understanding what it means, Andreana says, and then never look at it again. Be sure to read the agreement and insist your client re-reads it to ensure his or her financial plan fits the document.
For example, Andreana says, you and the client must check the shareholders’ agreement before naming a beneficiary on a life insurance policy.