Help your clients with financial challenges: part 1

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In the first part of a two-part series, Patti Ryan looks at how advisors can help their clients deal with financial bumps in the road.

Advising your small business clients during a good-news economy is usually fairly straightforward. But what happens when the economy slides, revenues go south and owners start losing sleep over the bottom line? How can you help?

As with any problem-solving challenge, start by identifying the central issues: know what small business owners are most concerned about and be prepared to discuss a range of solutions.

A 2013 report from the National Small Business Association found that even though the outlook for small businesses improved that year, a number of owners continued to worry about the possibility of a flat economy or even a recession in the coming 12 months. Nearly a third lacked confidence in the future of their businesses. Their chief concerns: availability of capital, attracting and retaining customers, and coping with a weak economy.

Of course, primary concerns and the best ways to address them will differ according to the size and maturity of a business. The smallest businesses often face the biggest challenges, says Mark Coutts, a certified financial planner with Sun Life in Toronto.

“At that stage, you don’t have the infrastructure yet to help run the business, so you have to do everything from designing your own website to emptying the garbage can at the end of the day. You have to be good at everything and work a lot harder,” says Coutts. “That’s all the more reason for an advisor to say, ‘Let’s get your financial affairs in order so you can focus as much as possible on building your business.’”

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