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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, most often they don’t have a lot of money to spend on accounting services and don’t really require much by way of 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 and have yet to have any revenue nor are they actively selling.  New Businesses, which you might think are the same, but they are not, are out the door and they are making sales; not many, but the main “start-up” of the company is done, and they are in the operational phase.

So why embrace these businesses?

  1. Easy…these businesses 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 for the business, but don’t discount the satisfaction of working with them and the potential of where this could lead both them and you!
  2. Think about what you can learn from these businesses and how it can help your business.  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.
  3. There is a whole new service offering for your business, with focus and dedication to this one group of businesses, or to their education.   Think QBO set up, education and ongoing support services.
  4. 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 with them?  They are everywhere, and they are looking to connect.  How I first got involved several years ago was just happenstance that 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:

  1. 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 as they are full of information.  Most offer programs like Summer Company, Faster Forward, or Second Career, and they are always looking for skilled people to pass on advice to their participants.
  2. Look for organizations like Community Futures Development, Innovation Cluster, or even the BDC. 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.
  3. Go big and get involved!! Organizations like 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 business decision.  However, understanding what it takes for these organizations and the help that they need, if one comes knocking on your door, you can at least send them in the right direction.

I’ve never considered a single new business or start-up I’ve worked with a waste of time; I’ve always taken something away from the experience.  I stay the course with working with these businesses, as every year, one of them surprises me with their idea and passion, and I love seeing it when it takes off for them!

Susan Watkin is a self-proclaimed, non-blogger, but endeavors to share about important small business issues, experiences, and best practices as often as possible.