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Ask Your Small Business Clients This Question

“What is most important to you today?” By asking your clients what’s on their minds today, you can tackle head on their most pressing problems first.

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By Barry Pennett

In the last year, there has been a significant business boom. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, business formation applications are at an all-time high, up 18.6% from last year. People have finally had the time and the opportunity to pursue their dreams of owning their own business. 

With the increase in business owners comes the increase in need for tax and accounting professionals. Because, if there’s anything the last year has taught business owners, new and old, it’s the importance of having experts by their side to help weather difficult times. While many tax and accounting professionals know the ins and outs of helping small businesses, today’s clients will likely want more support. In fact, a recent study by Intuit found that 66% of taxpayers want more financial and tax advice from their tax professional/advisor.

With more than 30 years of experience under my belt, I’ve learned that solving clients’ most pressing problems all comes down to one question:

“What is most important to you today?

By asking your clients what’s on their minds today, you can tackle head on their most pressing problems first. 

This could be a number of things, from just trying to keep the lights on, pivoting their business to adhere to new customers, how to grow after the pandemic, and even getting a better understanding of where your client stands financially. Not only will asking them about today’s worries help you identify and resolve short-term concerns, it will also give you a better understanding of where your clients’ long term goals are and where they’re headed with their businesses. If your clients are not actively thinking about this, broaching the topic with them will immediately show your dedication to supporting them and their long-term business health. 

Once you have those initial conversations, you can begin to evaluate for yourself – is this what they really should be worrying about based on their current financial situation? Do their most important business matters today also impact their long-term business goals? From there, you can help bridge the gap between their current concerns and what they really should be concerned about, creating a plan to work with them on improving business health and reaching their business vision. 

Posing this initial question also showcases what you can offer your clients in regard to advisory services. By creating long-term goals with them and advising them in next steps, they are gaining a trusted advisor who has their best interest in mind when mapping out goals. Have a conversation with them about an ongoing advisory services partnership to ensure the answers they gave to your original question are achieved, and that you’re continuing to address any new concerns or goals that arise. 

Asking “what is most important to you today” will put you and your client on the right track to a very  successful partnership. It quickly helps you get to the root of your client’s concerns, identify areas for improvement, and establish long-term goals for success. Especially after the events of last year and struggles businesses faced, the care and concern this question shows will set you and your firm apart and help you cultivate even stronger relationships with your clients. 


Barry Pennett is senior vice president and general manager of Intuit ProConnect Group.


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