Over the years, I’ve heard from many colleagues about how they avoid taking on start-ups or new businesses as clients, presumably because of the newness of their businesses or the unpredictability of their future. Sure, these companies often don’t have a lot of money to spend on accounting services and don’t really require much bookkeeping, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a group of business owners you should avoid.
The truth is that the start-up is a different animal than many accounting professionals are used to dealing with. For me, the start-up organization is one that is not truly operating as a business, yet. They have just started their business planning and projections, don’t have much have revenue and may not be actively selling. You might think that new businesses are the same, but they are not. They’re out the door and making sales, albeit not many, but the main "start-up" of the company is done and they are in the operational phase.
So, Why Embrace These Businesses?
- Easy … they are the future, and if we want them to be successful and create jobs in our communities, we need to help them. Yes, it is an investment and, in some cases, they’re a loss leader, but don’t discount the satisfaction of working with them and the potential of where this could lead both them and you!
- Think about what you can learn from these businesses and how it can help your firm. What an amazing way to flex your advisory muscles by working with new companies that are just looking for a start, rather than needing to make major changes.
- This could be a whole new service offering for your business, with focus and dedication to this one group of businesses, or to their education. Think QuickBooks® setup, education and ongoing support services.
- You are building that network in your community and becoming instrumental in community growth. You set yourself apart from other accounting firms in your community by being accessible and relatable to these new small businesses.
You’re ready to embrace, but now how do you find them and connect? Start-ups are everywhere and they are looking to connect. How I first got involved several years ago was just happenstance, which started with teaching for the now-defunct Ontario Self Employment Benefits program. From there, I found I personally had a soft spot for them and a desire to be more involved, so I made some connections to do so.
I recommend looking into the following in your area:
- Economic development: what programs or organizations are in your community that are supporting these businesses? The municipalities usually have a Business & Entrepreneurship centre, in addition to the municipal economic development department. Check out your town or city’s website because they are full of information. Most offer programs such as Summer Company, Faster Forward or Second Career, and they are always looking for skilled people to pass on advice to their participants.
- Community organizations: Look for organizations such as Community Futures Development, Innovation Cluster or any business development centre. Several I’ve seen are now creating communal work spaces in smaller cities to bolster the chances of survival for these businesses and are open to the participation of, and even partnership with, businesses professionals, like us.
- Go big and get involved! Organizations such as Start-Up Canada and Futurepreneurs give us a ton of opportunity to be involved. Participate in the chats online, go to the events they put on and become actively involved.
After all of this, you still might not want to make this a large part of your business, which is your decision. However, you can at least send them in the right direction when one comes knocking on your door.
I’ve never considered a single new business or start-up I’ve worked with a waste of time and always taken something away from the experience. I stay the course with working with these businesses. Every year, one of them surprises me with their idea and passion, and I love seeing it when it takes off for them!