After spending many years diligently building your CPA firm, you have decided it is time to close this phase of your life and pursue your dreams.
You may wonder how much time it will take to sell your practice. Even if you take the wise step of hiring a specialty business broker, some phases in the selling process will still require a significant amount of your time.
Plan accordingly, allowing sufficient flexibility in your schedule to accommodate the time demands the selling process will entail.
After listing your firm with Accounting Broker, we have you fill out a template which gives potential buyers a comprehensive financial picture of your practice. You will also provide copies of three years of your business tax returns. Accounting Broker takes care of the time-consuming task of redacting this information to maintain confidentiality when prospective buyers view your CPA firm’s details.
After we prepare your firm’s financial information, the initial marketing phase begins. Accounting Broker bears the brunt of time and expense during this phase to market the firm and identify prospective buyers. Not only do we specifically target the best purchasers already in our extensive database of tens of thousands of CPA practice buyers . . . but we generate additional highly qualified prospects in your firm’s market through a comprehensive and proactive marketing approach. We fully ensure your confidentiality as we market to and vet prospective buyers. We require each buyer to sign a nondisclosure agreement prior to receiving your information in redacted form.
We use a multifaceted approach to narrow the list of buyers to a handful of the most highly qualified who are a potentially a great fit for your practice. We bring buyers to the table who indicate that they meet all of your predetermined selection criteria. In addition, these buyers must also express the willingness and ability to pay a high price with a large amount of cash at closing.
While we find the best prospects, you are sprucing up your office.
First impressions are very important, and the look and feel of an office can make a very strong impression on a buyer. This is the time to repaint a door, fix a stuck blind, straighten all the desks, and perform any other maintenance tasks you have been meaning to get around to completing. Send the file boxes in your conference room off to storage. Imagine you are looking through a prospective buyer’s eyes. How could your space look nicer? This is not the time for major renovations, just tidying and small improvements.
After conducting a massive effort on your behalf, we compile a short-list of the best prospective buyers. We clear these buyers with you before providing your identity or scheduling a meeting. If you approve, we schedule times for you to meet with, on average, five of the prospective buyers on the short-list. We typically have many more than five good buyers on the short-list, but we don’t wish to overwhelm you. We prefer that the seller first meet with the best five or so buyers. If we later conclude that we need to dig deeper into the short- list, we will do so.
Expect initial meetings with buyers to last one to two hours.
Since we advise you not to inform employees until later in the selling process, meetings with prospective buyers should be conducted off-site or at your office outside of regular business hours. Initial meetings often take place in a restaurant over lunch or dinner.
After the meetings, we discuss your top choices.
Accounting Broker then takes the lead in negotiating and working with the prospective buyers to get strong offers for your CPA practice. We work toward the highest price and the most cash at closing. Our goal is to obtain multiple offers.
Review and Negotiate
Once we have obtained written letters of intent from the buyer candidates, you’ll spend time with Accounting Broker reviewing the offers and working with us as we further negotiate with your top prospective buyer. This phase culminates in a final executed letter of intent with your chosen buyer that outlines the terms of the deal.
Before the sale can close, the buyer must perform due diligence. Assisting the buyer during this phase will be the seller’s most time-consuming task prior to closing. Generally, to maintain confidentiality from clients and employees, due diligence usually takes place in the seller’s offices on evenings and weekends. Allow two to three weekends and a few weekday evenings to complete the due diligence process.
Financing can often be done concurrently with due diligence. Fortunately, the seller often has little involvement in the buyer’s pursuit of financing and loan underwriting.
By this phase, you will have already provided the buyer with the tax returns and financial summaries the lender requires. You will need to sign a form 4506-T allowing the lender to access your firm’s tax information directly from the IRS. You may also have to answer additional financial questions from the underwriter. If the lender requires an independent appraisal of your practice, you might need to make time to answer questions or provide more information to the business valuation expert.
In many cases, the buyer uses one of the experienced CPA firm acquisition lenders recommended by Accounting Broker. If the buyer uses one of our recommended lenders, we can provide significant assistance in the process.
The buyer usually assumes the responsibility for preparing the purchase agreements and related documentation. Although Accounting Broker does not provide legal services, we provide sample documents to speed up the process. The attorneys for the buyer and seller should carefully review the purchase and sale documents.
Closing & Transition
Once the purchase and sale documents are completed, due diligence is finalized, and the loan is approved, the transaction can close. You have sold your firm!
In order to ensure a smooth transition for your former clients and employees and the new owner, the seller usually agrees to assist the buyer for a specified period of time. The amount of seller transition time required depends on the nature and complexity of the firm being sold.
Some sellers have a desire to work in the acquiring firm – for agreed-upon compensation – after the initial transition period. Others are free to sail the world, golf, pursue a cause, start a new business venture, spend time with family, or otherwise follow their dreams. Whatever your post-CPA practice goals, we at Accounting Broker will make the process of selling your practice much smoother and more profitable.
Accounting Broker Acquisition Group is the only national business brokerage of its type comprised 100-percent of brokers who are CPAs with significant “Big Four” merger and acquisition experience. Contact us today to learn how you can maximize the value of your CPA firm sale.