Questions accountants should ask prospective small business owners
November 30, 2015

For a specific type of clientele, small business owners are an interesting bunch. They don't come to you until there's a problem, they like to keep their cards close and uncertainty is as routine to them as eating breakfast cereal. Still, with the right care and concern for what they want out of their work, you can certainly stand to not only gain effective clients, but beautiful friendships that extend beyond your office. Before you get all Casablanca on these people, however, you'll want to have an idea of where they're coming from, the direction they're going, how things look for them and why they carry that Trident around. Here are some important questions to ask them:

What do you like most about your business?
While getting down to brass tacks is sometimes the most prudent approach, the owners may need a little reassurance about themselves. If they're coming to you with a problem, they're likely nervous and uncomfortable about what they can do and where they are. Have them talk about the business in a positive light by asking what they feel most proud of, according to Accounting Today.

How's your current situation, regardless of your issue?
Often, small business owners will come to you when they don't understand the numbers on one thing or another, or they're clueless about their tax situation. Blake Christian suggests getting an idea on how their shop or company performed in the last three years. If they're on a stable or upward trend, you can focus on the immediate task at hand. If it's a downward pattern, there may be something they're not telling you.

What brought you here over a different accountant?
Whatever situation a small business owner has, he or she came to you for a reason. Try to find out why they called you over someone else. Lisa Tierney of Accounting Today suggested it will give you an idea of what to expect from them. If their intentions sound less than noble, it may be wise to steer clear of them like a cat does from cucumbers.

What's your big goal this year?
While a small business owner's current operations may not relate to what brings them to you, what he or she intends to do in the next 6 to 12 months might. Ask these people what they've got planned, whether it's paying off a debt or opening up a new storefront on prime real estate. That will give you some understanding of where they're going.

How are your taxes looking?
It's never a bad idea to branch out if the owner looks promising as a client. Ask about his or her tax situation if the problem isn't about that. If it is, feel free to bring up some other accounting you have. Whatever you choose, it gives them the sense you're there for them.

Nexus: G-WEBCD1