Small biz need holistic midyear checkups

Small business owners might want to put two important items at the top of their midyear to-do lists: get a financial checkup, and do more networking.

Early July is a good time for owners to plan for the rest of the year. But the recession has likely chilled many companies’ plans to expand or make big capital expenditures. And many owners have already have done as much cost-cutting as they could to help their companies weather the poor economy.

So, many of the savvy owners who schedule midyear financial checkup appointments with accountants or tax attorneys are likely to be seeking other kinds of guidance as well, such as finding ways to bring in more sales.

Certainly, there are financial issues to discuss, especially since there are new federal and state laws designed to help companies during the recession. Joseph Maloney, a certified public accountant with Maloney Reed Scarpitti & Co. LLP in Erie, Pa., noted that businesses may be able to reduce their quarterly estimated tax payments, which would help those with waning cash flows.

Maloney said more tax law changes may be in the offing, and he suggested owners not only see their financial advisers now but keep in touch to “see what adjustments might have to be made” for the rest of 2009.

But a thorough midyear checkup will always go beyond taxes and cutting expenses, and touch on a company’s strategy. This year, Maloney said, many owners are having to brainstorm with their advisers about ways to bring in new business, especially with the drastic changes in industries such as financial services and autos.

“I’ve gotten out of the auto line (of business) and I need to get into some other line,” is the type of problem that accountants and attorneys are hearing, Maloney said. “They almost have to reinvent themselves.”

Financial advisers are also a natural place for owners to begin networking. Those who specialize in working with small businesses are often able to bring together clients who need each other’s products or services.

Chambers of commerce and trade or entrepreneurs’ associations are also good places to go. So are trade shows, and many owners are making a point of going to more of them this summer.

“You never know who you’re going to meet and where, so think outside the obvious networking places,” said Leon Dutkiewicz, a CPA with Margolis & Co. in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. For example, he said, owners shouldn’t go just to the standard trade shows and should consider international expos that are often held in big cities.

Summer is also a good time to find and join a networking group. Many groups hold summer parties and other events, and most are always seeking new members.

Like a chamber of commerce, a networking group will bring together owners from diverse industries. They’re not hard to find ? talk to a handful of business owners, and at least one is sure to be part of a networking group. Searching the Internet will also quickly yield the names of groups that are either nearby or online.

Your financial adviser may also be a networker. “It’s something that I personally believe in,” Dutkiewicz said.

Networking doesn’t have to be through an organized group. Owners taking their children to Little League games and other sports can get leads or customers through casual conversations with other parents. Some business owners make connections while waiting on cashiers’ lines in stores. Events to mark the Fourth of July are also fair game for networking.

There are also networking possibilities at the Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Centers, located at many colleges around the nation. These centers exist to help and advise small companies, and many SBDCs offer low- or no-cost classes and seminars, even during the summer. That can give an owner a chance to learn new skills, get some ideas and also do some more networking.

SBDCs can be located through the SBA’s Web site at

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.