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Sales resources > Group Benefits > Small business

The Small Business Opportunity*

Small business owners are a major force in today’s economy:

  • over 1 million small businesses in Canada with employees
  • 2.3 million self-employed Canadians in 2007

For financial advisors looking to serve the needs of small business owners, the opportunity can be very rewarding.

 Meeting your clients’ business and personal financial needs

Many small business owners are too busy growing their business to spend time looking after their personal wealth. Others put all their eggs in one basket, relying too heavily on the equity they have built in their business as their ticket to a comfortable retirement.

Along with greater independence and the increased earnings potential that self-employment can provide comes financial risk. If their enterprise fails or they succumb to a disability, many small business owners are on their own.

Small business owners face a unique set of challenges where the lines are often blurred between business requirements and personal financial goals. Taking a holistic approach ensures that both business and personal plans complement each other.

Offering your small business clients integrated personal and business solutions will help you provide your clients true value.

Develop comprehensive, integrated business and personal plans for your small business clients by referring to our needs-based solutions. 

 Business stages and needs

Business Stages*

1. Just Starting

Starting a new business is exciting but it requires an enormous amount of energy and perseverance. A sound, well thought-out business plan is essential – not only to line up financing but also to guide the many decisions and actions that need to be taken to ensure the company is delivering a product or service customers want, at a competitive yet profitable price.

Start-up Profile

  • Operational pressures are similar across industries
  • Focused on "survival":
    • resourcing
    • cash flow
    • customer acquisition
  • Owners more likely to behave as consumers rather than business owners

New business owners typically are focused on survival and getting through the first critical years. Usually little thought is given to their personal financial plan – all their energy goes into the business. As a result, their personal savings may be at risk should their company fail.

They often operate without a safety net, putting their lifestyle and savings at risk should they become ill or disabled. Many small start-up operations do not have the budget to maintain a group insurance plan and are therefore normally ineligible for health, dental and disability benefits.

2. Up and Running

Once a small business moves into the growth phase, there are often more opportunities than time, people and resources. Growing companies face a number of challenges:

  • Attracting and retaining employees – how can small businesses compete for top talent?
  • Managing cash flow
  • Ensuring business continuation should the owner or a key employee die or become disabled

Established Business Profile

  • Perceive themselves as true business owners, expecting to be treated differently than consumers
  • Operational pressures differ depending on the industry, number of employees and location of the business. Being aware of these issues can help you relate to your clients’ needs

3. Mature Business

This is the time when the business is generating the most cash. It is also often the time when business owners realize they have outgrown the strategies that worked for them in the earlier stages of their business. At this stage, business owners look for strategies to:

  • Minimize the tax implications of withdrawing retained earnings from the company
  • Build personal wealth and plan for a rewarding retirement
  • Sell the company or pass it on to the next generation in a tax efficient manner

Do any of these profiles fit your current client base? Tap into the lucrative small business market and deepen your relationships with your existing clients – with the help of Manulife Financial!

 Relating to business owners

Business Owner Profiles*

Knowing how to speak to small business owners and demonstrating knowledge of their unique set of needs goes a long way in building credibility and developing a strong, lasting relationship. Understand the dynamics of each business owner profile and adjust your approach to align with their “hot buttons”.


Type Profile Approach
Mountain Climbers
(2% of small business owners)
  • Big picture people
  • Ego-centric
  • Driven by growth and achievement
  • Seek challenges
  • Chronic entrepreneurs
  • Chronic movers
  • Control their earnings potential
  • Proud of their accomplishments
Likely title: Founder
Mountain climbers will get excited by an approach that focuses on growth and puts them in the driver’s seat. It’s all about them!
Freedom Fighters
(24% of small business owners)
  • Control over who they work with
  • More leisurely pursuits
  • Bottom line more important than the top
  • Community-focused
  • Fiercely independent
  • Proud of their company
  • Own building
  • People stay
  • Avoid trappings of growth
  • Paternalistic managers
Likely title: President
Freedom fighters will be more likely enticed by an approach that demonstrates the benefits to him/her but also to the family and employees. It’s all about the common good for the freedom fighter.
(74% of small business owners)
  • Home based
  • No employees
  • Motivated by mastery
  • Risk averse
  • Want to be taken seriously
  • Craftspeople are the majority
  • All in one pot
  • Control of their time
  • Proud of their product

Likely title: Craftsperson title related to their field of expertise (e.g. Photographer)

Craftspeople exhibit tremendous pride in their craft so they will be looking for a trusted advisor who shows the same kind of expertise in his/her “craft”. An understanding of their industry will go a long way in cementing the relationship.

Despite the differences among the three types of entrepreneur, the one trait they have in common is the pride they take in their business and the importance of being able to control either their earnings, time or environment.

When addressing a new prospect, small business owner research indicates that their preferred title is “Owner” or “Business Owner”.

 Finding small businesses

Prospecting for new business – where to find them

Prospecting for small businesses begins by identifying where to look — here are some suggestions to consider.

Be resourceful

  • Look in your current book of business … you will likely already have a few clients who own their own business
  • Ask current small business owners that you know for referrals
  • Look for new business start-ups and well-established businesses that are mainstays within your community
  • Search the yellow pages and make a list of professionals to contact


  • Become a member of your local Chamber of Commerce
  • There are a number of additional websites you can use to help you search for information about small businesses in your area:
  • Host a seminar and meet new people - some ideas include:
    • hosting seminars on tax-effective strategies
    • hosting lunch-and-learns that focus on investment strategies ideal for business owners
    • holding a seminar that discusses issues that arise during succession planning
    • inviting small business owners to a seminar focusing on the merits of offering a group benefits plan


  • Initiate a direct mail campaign that highlights the services you offer, your experience and specific area of expertise.
  • Consider targeting small business owners with a letter-prospecting campaign. You can attach an article of interest to help your letter stand out from the crowd.
  • A cold call campaign might be most effective when it is supported by other marketing initiatives such as a quarterly newsletter or direct mail campaign. (Note: Telephone activity must be conducted in accordance with Do Not Call List policies and practices.)
  • Position yourself as an expert in the field by contributing to local publications targeted to small business. Find the publications local businesses use for advertising and contact the editor to discuss whether starting your own small business column would be a welcome fit.



Find success with home‑based business owners
Find success with the millennial generation of business owners
Find success with start-ups
Find success by demonstrating the value of your advice