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Small Business Advisory Services in Diverse, Underserved Communities

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy has been devastating. Lockdowns across the U.S. have hit small businesses especially hard, and in some cases, struggling business have closed their doors permanently. But if there’s a silver lining to this unfortunate situation, perhaps it's opening paths for advisors to make a difference in our world, while finding a new market at the same time.

The Centrality of Small Businesses in the U.S. Economy

According to the Small Business Administration’s 2020 Small Business Profile, there are 31.7 million small businesses in the United States, including six million from communities of color. The small business sector has a significant impact on the economy, comprising 99.9% of all business and employing 60 million people. Small businesses' survival and growth is vital to the growth and sustainability of the U.S. economy.

COVID’s Impact on Small Businesses and Especially Minority Owned Firms

Additionally, McKinsey Consulting reports that Black and minority owned business have a much higher failure rate than the national average, mostly due to undercapitalization of the business. A working paper from Fairlie (2020) reports recent data from the National Bureau of Economic Research indicating small businesses have been hard hit by the pandemic. Active business operations dropped by 22% during a two-month period between February and April 2020, with black-owned businesses down 41%. Other minorities were also harder hit than the average. Data from the New York Federal Reserve paints a similar picture. The Small Business Credit Survey found minority business owners hit much harder than average. Overall results indicated 57% of firms characterized their financial condition as “fair” or “poor”. Unfortunately, this figure jumped to 79% for Asian-owned firms, 77% for Black-owned firms, and 66% for Latin-owned firms.

While we don’t yet have data on the connection between small business survival rates and access to a personal financial planner, one area of further study should be whether financial advisory relationships have improved outcomes for small business owners. Moreover, studying the characteristics of those relationships, such as the length of advisory services, whether services began prior to small business formation, and how comprehensive the advisory work was could provide qualitative research details to facilitate small business sustainability.

Financial Planning is Important for Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners

Entrepreneurs have unique qualities that set them apart, whether it's family relationships, personal and business goals, economic and noneconomic goals, and behaviors and attitudes. Providing financial planning services for entrepreneurs and small business owners can be both challenging and intellectually fascinating at the same time. The intertwined business management, personal relationships and firm ownership issues and goals create financial planning complexities, rendering the advice of an advisor particularly valuable. Indeed, researchers that study this topic found that women entrepreneurs' access to capital was predicated more on the quality of their personal finances than the assets of the business.

Central to theirs and other findings was that a significant contributing factor in the failure of entrepreneurs was the inadequacy of their personal capital, personal liquidity shortfalls, and poor personal tax planning. This finding could lead small business lenders and those who serve women entrepreneurs to include personal financial planning services as part of the portfolio.

Small Business Advisory Services as a New Market Opportunity

The guiding assumption in financial planning and counseling is that those who use the help of a financial professional to build and implement a goals-based plan will ultimately achieve success. Most would agree that's best done by working with a financial professional that understands the business and personal goals and objectives of the individual or entrepreneur. Many financial planners are looking for ways to build their client base, and opportunities to market to potential client segments that they feel might be lucrative.


From a business standpoint, entrepreneurs (family and non-family businesses, and solo operators) can be an important source of business for planners, mostly due to their complex situations. Most practitioners and researchers point to the intertwining nature of an entrepreneur’s personal goals, such as retirement and estate planning, coupled with business goals such as firm leadership and business development. Many financial planners are also looking for ways to contribute to societal value. Advising underserved individuals and communities would advance these dual goals.

What You Can Do Next

  • Keep in mind that many small businesses, especially minority owned, are struggling right now just to keep their doors open. If that’s the case, find some businesses in your community and help them by being a cash-flow thought partner to help them stay afloat until things improve. Don’t underestimate your abilities as a business person. You may not know their business, but being available to help them make good decisions could open new doors and pivot opportunities. As the economy recovers, long-term planning services can be integrated into the relationship.
  • Most communities have non-profit organizations that serve small businesses and entrepreneurs, such as the Small Business Development Centers, sponsored by the Small Business Administration. Some specialize in underserved groups. Establish relationships with these associations to offer financial planning or education services to their members. Services could include group-based education seminars about the importance of financial planning in their business. Some accept volunteers to serve as mentors (for example, Pacific Community Ventures). Small steps such as establishing an emergency fund, or finding a good CPA to help with taxes can reap big rewards.
  • Consider beginning with Pro Bono services, and once the business recovers and starts to grow again, then slowly develop a trust-based long-term relationship that enables mutual financial benefits.


Small business survival and growth are vital to the sustainability of the economy. Improving access to personal financial planners could be an important factor in the mission to help close the racial and gender wealth gap. Advisors can play a vital role, and simultaneously develop a new market at the same time.

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