CPAs as Advisers to Entrepreneurs

Article excerpt

The Entrepreneurship and Personal Enterprise program, associated with Cornell University, has embarked on a series of studies on entrepreneurship, with the objective of helping to start, manage, and grow businesses. The first study, "Creating a New Venture? Business Activities Essential for Entrepreneurship," was published in the Spring of 1996 and sought, through the use of focus groups, to identify the kind of information entrepreneurs need to successfully start a new business and the places and ways in which the entrepreneurs can presently obtain that information. The perceived benefits to society in terms of new jobs and other economic activity of successful new ventures is the reason for the study.

The study identified the top ten essential activities for starting a business as seen by business owners, business professionals, and community leaders. While the top ten list was not the same for each of the groups, there were four activities that made it to each and 18 items comprised all the items on the three lists. The four common items were

anticipating cash flow requirements

organizing finances

business planning

locating sales prospects.

The study, based upon the focus groups-28 groups to which 822 business owners and entrepreneurs, professionals providing services to small and independent businesses, and community leaders were invited- then discussed the ways in which start-up business owners can learn about the essential activities.

The report concluded with a number of findings and recommendations. Of interest to CPAs are the following: Business professionals (CPAs and lawyers) complete few formal courses and have limited training in entrepreneurship or small business although they are often called on first for their expertise. Professionals may not be in a position to increase their list of client services to include the labor-intensive process of teaching clients about owning a business.

There is a dearth of research or customer-focused resources on the topics, times, tools, trends, or techniques for effectively teaching entrepreneurs and business owners essential business knowledge and skills. …