Annual Discussions with Your Clients

Yearly meetings with your clients are crucial in order to maintain a relationship of trust, ensure you will receive complete financial records and avoid problems, and find additional income streams. Your conversations with business clients and individuals will be a bit different, although there will be some crossover. 

Business clients

Many questions for business clients are going to focus on closing out the financial year. Of course, you’ll want to review all necessary steps for closing the books: making sure they are up-to-date on invoicing, have sent invoice reminders, have recorded all expenses, and have paid their contractors and their bills to date. Small business owners and entrepreneurs will need to make sure their personal and business expenses are separated, mileage is logged, etc. 

If you haven’t discussed depreciation options with them, or if they have purchased new assets over the year, now is the time to discuss the best options for them. You’ll want to review things that may change over time or are based on income. Review any changes in the tax law that may affect them.

There are some important big-picture questions that should also be reviewed each year. For instance:

  • What have been some of your company’s financial challenges or business challenges this past year, or what do you see going into the future?
  • If you could solve one problem, what would it be?
  • Do you have any plans to expand or scale back?
  • Do you have a short-, mid-, long-term business strategy? Has anything happened to make you rethink your strategies or your plans?
  •  What is one thing in your business you’re most proud of?
  • What’s one thing you’d love to delegate?
  • Do you have up-to-date cybersecurity in place? Have you reviewed business insurance options with your insurance agent recently, such as cyber liability insurance and business interruption insurance? 

While these are not necessarily questions specific to accounting, these issues will have a profound effect on your client’s financial strength and should be discussed as part of broad customer service. Your customers will likely very much appreciate your drawing their attention to these things. 

Individual clients

Besides making sure they are pulling together the necessary paperwork for their individual taxes, questions for individual clients are going to be more in line with personal finances and goals. You may want to discuss financial planning questions with them, including:

  • Contributions to IRAs, 401(k)s, 529s, and other savings options
  • FSA or HSA funds
  • Charitable giving
  • Required IRA and 401(k) minimum distributions
  • Savings goals

 You might include your entrepreneur and freelance clients in this category, as well. These clients need a hybrid of business and personal advice.

 You will want to ask your individual clients some big-picture questions, which might help kickstart a discussion about the points mentioned above. These questions might include:

  • Is there anything that keeps you awake at night?
  • Do you have any family or individual goals?
  • What do you love to do? Hobbies, family trips?
  • Is there any aspect of your financial planning activities that you feel like you don’t have enough time or knowledge for or that you’d love to delegate?

Finding new business opportunities with existing clients

The time you spend each year with your clients is an opportunity to find new ways to serve them. You could avert problems, which will make tax preparation run more smoothly, and you will certainly strengthen your business relationship. People do business with people. If your clients only hear from you when you need records from them or when there is a problem, they will not be as committed to you as if you showed sincere interest in helping them maximize their financial goals and solving their problems through regular interaction. This interaction will solidify their commitment to you as their accountant and could mean more business for you.