When a small business owner decides to expand their business, there are several financial advisors that could help make it happen, including a financial planner, accountant and business consultant.
When working with several financial advisors at once, it is good to have a financial planner on your team because, according to Kenneth W. Rudzinski, CFP, CRPC, CLU, ChFC, CASL, CAP, of Heritage Financial Consultants LLC, they are “the coordinator of efforts and the catalyst of the group.” Not only can they help give advice on insurance investments, estate planning, retirement strategies, certain amounts of tax planning, among other things, but also help find gaps in different plans that other members of the financial team might have missed.
“[The financial planner is] looking at the client in a much broader way, encompassing a lot of disciplines,” Rudzinski told O&P Business News. “When we do [comprehensive] planning we tend to be coordinator of efforts… Sometimes we have to be careful as planners not to step on toes [when we are on someone else’s turf].”
A certified public accountant (CPA) is mainly known for working on yearly tax returns, but for a business they can provide quarterly returns, profit and loss statements, balance sheets, auditing and more. They may also give advice on retirement plans, profit sharing plans and help reduce taxes.
While a small business may be able to get by on only using a financial planner and accountant, a business consultant may also be helpful when it comes to making short- and long-term decisions for the business, especially if the company has several partners.
“Usually three or four times a year, we sit down with [our business consultant] and we walk through what is going on in our business, what we need to be doing, what we need to look ahead for, how we can plan for 1, 3 or 5 years down the road. We are all busy working in the business every day and this helps us work on our business,” Andrew Steele, MBA, CPO, LPO, managing partner for Clark & Associates Prosthetics & Orthotics, said. “There can be differences of opinion on how we are doing and where we want to go, so it is good to have that independent party there to walk through those discussions… Not necessarily reconciling who is right and wrong, but discussing what our concerns are.”
Beyond these three financial advisors, small business owners can also make good use of an attorney when needing business advice.
“We make liberal use of an attorney, not only as a general council, but as someone we can reach out to for some business practice issues,” Michael Oros, CPO/LPO, FAAOP, president of Scheck & Siress, said.
How financial advisors can help
When meeting with financial planners and business consultants, it is important to set aside a few hours to speak with them about all the aspects of your business. One specific issue that many small businesses should discuss with their financial advisors is how to prepare in the event of a Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) audit.
“In the days that we are in now with RAC and prepayment audits it is good to have cash reserves in case you run into a lengthy appeals process,” Steele said. “But it is vital to have a cash cushion to help with growth of the business as well. It is also important for long term transition planning for your business, especially if it is a partnership.”
It is also important to plan ahead for a transition that may happen over the years, such as the retirement or death of a partner. Financial advisors will help plan for these events 5 years, 10 years or even 15 years ahead of time.
Along with making sure their company is running smoothly, many business owners will use their financial advisors to make sure their employees are well taken care of, whether through health insurance investments or 401k plans.
“We have consultants helping us to pick plans that make sense and manage a 401k and profit sharing program that is very generous,” Oros said. “I think those are things that help us to grow the company because, frankly, it helps us to attract the best clinicians.”
“Just from a personal perspective, I have always wanted to take care of our employees. I am a clinician, not a business man or financial advisor, for that matter, and because of that I depended on [my CPA] to help take care of our employees and grow with us as we grew in size,” Mo Kenney, CPO, FAAOP, owner of and practitioner at Kenney Prosthetics, said.
Choosing the right consultant
As with most business decisions, choosing the right financial planner, accountant or business consultant can be challenging. Small business owners may consider going with someone they know personally.
“[My CPA] was a young man who was working for a larger firm before I opened my business, so I used him for my personal tax issues. Then, coincidentally, when I decided to open my business, he decided to open his own firm,” Kenney said. “When he left his former employer, I came on board with him as a new client. We established a relationship a long time ago and so I have seen him evolve over time and felt comfortable with him because of that.”
However, sometimes personal contacts may not have the experience that your business needs.
“While you may have a good personal relationship with an accountant or financial planner, they may not be the right fit for your company. They may not have the experience you need,” Steele said. “Those are tough decisions to make, too, when you have to choose someone other than the person you may have a personal relationship with.”
Most of the time businesses may seek the service of certain business consultants, accountants or financial planners that are recommended to them by someone they trust, such as an attorney, but there may be a time when a business will interview several individuals and firms to find the right fit for the company’s specific need.
“We went through an interview process, which took a long time to bring [a consultant] on because we knew it was a important part of our business and it was something we knew that would be somewhat costly,” Oros said. “We wanted to make sure we were making a good decision so we interviewed several people/firms before we made our decision.” — by Casey Tingle
Disclosures: Kenney, Oros, Rudzinski and Steele have no relevant financial disclosures.