Serving small businesses: A deep well of opportunities

An old water well representing the steady source of legal work provided by small business owners

Small law firms are constantly searching for new clients who can keep work and revenue flowing in. The 2020 Thomson Reuters State of U.S. Small Law Firms Report found that acquiring new business was an ongoing challenge for 76% of small law firms. If your firm typically only works with individuals, small businesses present a promising answer to this challenge.

From their initial formation to the day they first open their doors and beyond, small business owners have ongoing legal needs and can present a deep well of new work for those who are willing to stick with them. The first step towards successfully serving these types of clients is to understand who they are and what makes their situation unique. This will help you anticipate their legal needs and provide the best counsel with maximum efficiency.

What are they?

There is no perfect profile to define every small business, but generally speaking, they are independently owned and operated, for-profit companies that provide products and services in a limited capacity. According to Business Know-How, 80% of small businesses in the United States have no additional employees besides the owner. While it might sound easy to help a business client without any extra personnel to worry about, you have to be mindful of their financial situation as well. Roughly 54% of small businesses make less than $100,000 annually, so small business owners will greatly appreciate speedy and efficient legal work.

Who are they?

Small business owners are as diverse as the businesses they run, so learning more about a potential client may help you adapt your approach before you meet them. Roughly 51% of small business owners are over the age of 50, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and 77% have some sort of higher education. Overall, the most common industries for small businesses to operate in are professional, scientific, and technical services, construction, and real estate. More recently, the popularity of healthcare service, e-commerce, technology, legalized marijuana products, and maintenance businesses has increased. Take some time to investigate these industries and their unique legal challenges. You may find one that suits you or your firm better than others.

Where are they?

Simply put, small businesses are everywhere. There are over 30.7 million small businesses across the United States, and they employ almost 60 million people. Surprisingly, self-employment rates are actually higher outside of major metropolitan areas, which means you can find them just about anywhere you may be practicing. When scouting for potential small business clients, look beyond the major intersections you already know, and don’t be shy about marketing your services closer to residential areas. About half of all small businesses are home-based, so finding them may take some diligence on your part.

Why are they doing it?

For most small business owners, starting and running their venture is a very personal pursuit. A survey from Guidant Financial found that 29% were motivated to open their business by a desire to be their own boss, while 16% said they simply wanted to pursue their passion. For many, the stakes couldn’t be higher, as they have a significant personal investment in this business. That business is often a defining part of their identity, and its success is their life’s dream. It isn’t just a job for them, it is their baby. If you match that level of dedication with your own efficient and helpful legal counsel, you will find that small businesses are a deep well of legal needs and a reliable source of revenue for your firm.

May is recognized as National Small Business Month. If your firm is looking to take on additional clients, you can use this as an opportunity to reach new clientele. Start by thinking about ways you could begin promoting your legal services to local businesses. From social media to targeted ads to video, get a game plan in place to reach this coveted audience.

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