By the time you’re ready to meet face-to-face with a prospective buyer for your CPA practice, you’ve narrowed down a large field of candidates. Now you have a small number or possibly even just one candidate that seems to have what it takes: appropriate educational and professional qualifications, strong communication skills, and the financial means to fund the transaction and close the deal. Now it is time to take the next step and personally meet with the buyer prospect. The following will help you to make that first meeting a successful one.
Checking the Fit
The first meeting is very similar to a job interview. You are interviewing the buyer prospect, and the buyer is interviewing you.
At the first meeting, buyer and seller assess each other. The buyer will imagine himself working with your employees, serving your clients. Do your best to put the buyer at ease by making him or her feel at home. You, as the seller have to assess the buyer. How do you think he or she will fit with your clients? Your employees? Do they seem to have the presence and the interpersonal skills to succeed when they take over from you?
Accentuate the Positive
By the time you get to this point, the buyer has analyzed the financial information about your practice in great detail. They’ve checked things out about your CPA firm as far as possible without actually being in the office. And they are still interested. But when meeting face to face with the buyer at this point, many sellers make a critical mistake. They project a negative impression of their own practice.
This may seem hard to believe, because it’s such an obvious mistake. But if a seller is tired, overworked or frustrated with a troublesome client, it’s surprisingly easy for him or her to slip into badmouthing or belittling clients or employees. Despite owning a great firm and client list, his or her outlook has soured.
This is absolutely the wrong attitude to project. You don’t want to lie to a prospective buyer, and certainly material things that are negative will be uncovered during the due diligence phase, and should be disclosed. For example, if your long-time bookkeeper just announced that she is moving across the country next month, you need to disclose the fact. However, if you find her habit of humming show tunes irritating, keep that to yourself. There’s no need to dwell on the negatives. Instead, focus on the positive, and talk about your firm in an uplifting way. Remember, what may seem old and mundane to you, if you have been in your practice for decades, can be a new and exciting career for the buyer, and a chance of realizing their dream of owning their own practice.
If you were selling a car, you’d wash and wax it first. When you sell a house, you clean and unclutter. So if the meeting is taking place in your office, look around with a critical eye. This isn’t the time for elaborate remodeling. But if something is obviously going to turn off the buyer, fix it. Paint that door that’s needed touching up for the last few years. Clear those 500 tax returns off your desk. Straighten up your conference room. Move the file storage boxes off site. People want to be in a nice environment, and the visual impression your office makes on the buyer can be enormous.
Remember, the potential buyer is picturing spending the next 15 years here. She’s probably been working for somebody else for years and dreams of having her own practice. She imagines sitting in your desk, looking out your window. So make that view as nice as possible. Don’t underestimate the power of curb appeal to help get you a good price and good terms.
Use a Third Party to Negotiate
Even if you’re the best negotiator in the world, one wrong move and you can permanently strain your relationship with a potential buyer. Direct negotiations can endanger deals. Instead, using our services keeps you at a safe distance from the buyer during the negotiation process. If he feels pushed a little too hard, you can still recover, and let us take the “heat.” With Accounting Broker Acquisition Group working on your behalf, you’re free to build your relationship with the buyer without the accumulating animosity and aggression that can happen in a direct negotiation. In addition, it would take many years of hard effort to develop a proprietary database of highly qualified buyers . . . something we have at our fingertips.
Accounting Broker Acquisition Group will get you the most exceptional price and terms, because we’re the only national business brokerage of our type comprised 100-percent of brokers who are CPAs with significant “Big Four” merger and acquisition experience. Contact us today and let us go to work for you.