How can advisors help struggling small business owners now?

Cost control is just one aspect of Gordon’s work with business owner clients. He tries to ensure they adopt the right mindset, especially in periods of downturn. If clients are focused on an idea of scarcity, rather than an idea of abundance, he believes they may make poor decisions. Controlling expenses line by line can help shift a client’s mindset away from scarcity. As can outlining all the possible opportunities out there for their business. Often the idea of a downturn can be worse for a client than the actual downturn they’re experiencing. By laying out costs and opportunities, they can switch to a more rational and abundant mindset that can inform a better decision for their business.

Accountability is a big part of achieving the right outcomes for business owners, Gordon says. When he works with business owners to prepare for downturns, he will schedule regular follow-up meetings to ensure they are staying on track. He also encourages them to renegotiate, be it debts or tenancy agreements, when things start to become onerous. He says that many are often surprised at the response when they ask. Even though he is trained as a business coach and lawyer and financial planner, Gordon also knows when the problems are beyond his scope of practise for him to handle as their financial advisor. In those cases, he regularly refers out to other professionals in his network, be they business valuators, coaches, accountants, or other lawyers. That network can be key to helping the client get the help their business needs.

Gordon highlighted the example of one small-business-owner client he is currently taking through this process. That client reached out to say their business was struggling. Gordon sat down with the client to lay out every cost and potential opportunity before their business right now. He also took time to understand the client’s overall goals for their business and had them write a mission statement that could inform how they run their business and plan for their family.

The client eliminated all the expenses they could before turning to creating various revenue-opportunities. Specifically, Gordon and his client focused on every decision the client could make that should make their business more money and has the client commit to a weekly 45-minute check-in with their team on the process. While the process is ongoing, Gordon believes that he has helped his client get on the right track just in time.

Gordon admits that a financial advisor giving business advice can open up some ambiguity in the client relationship. That’s why he tries to keep his business coaching work separate. When business owner clients come to him with issues, he tries to frame the business in the wider context of their family’s wealth and financial plans. Gordon is also a certified exit planning advisor (CEPA), which is a US-based training program focused on helping business owner clients exit their businesses. As he has that designation, he tells business owner clients that he will help them ensure their business is ‘exit ready’ at all times, because often a business exit is forced upon its owner by unforeseen circumstances. Those qualifications and that upfront expectation allows him to navigate the complex interplay between business and personal financial advice.

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