Not sure how to help your small business clients see a situation more clearly? Try these road-tested tips in talking to your entrepreneurs.


1. Does it make money? Just because an entrepreneur has zeal and skill, may not mean he has the ability to make a living from his latest endeavor. Without a business plan, that idea may not be a company-but a hobby, says Wilson Bank's Flanagan. "You don't have to be the best at something, but you have to be one of the best," he says. "You have to have passion. And it has to be something that is profitable."


2. Never too small. Entrepreneurs starting out sometimes make the mistake of thinking they're too small to seek help from a team, says Merrill Lynch's Papandrea. Not so. Instead, he has seen small business owners grow overwhelmed when they try to wear all the hats themselves. "That's not good for growth," he says. "Instead of getting discouraged, I tell them to seek partners and put a team together."


3. Dig deep. The more of their financial picture that a client is willing to share, the better advice they're going to get, UMB's Brust observes. Entrepreneurs have a special relationship with their finances as they're intrinsically tied to their businesses-something they've typically created themselves. Getting them to be more open about their financial situation can help advisors come up with solutions tailored to their needs. "If I can understand all of the financial inter-working, then we can make better recommendations in all aspects of their financial lives," she says.


4. Pushing pause. Entrepreneurs can be so focused on the success of their businesses, they can sometimes miss the complexities of protecting their own wealth, says UnionBanc's regional managing director Stephen Sherline. The bank encourages their small business clients to look at their own personal holdings for later in life. "We need to help them to slow down and take the time to recognize where they want to go," he says. "We help them identify gaps in their plan."

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