Selling Your Accounting Practice in 2011?

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'Tis the season for celebration and 'tis the season for planning and organizing.  If you intend to exit or sell your accounting practice in 2011, you should be planning and organizing it prior to the end of January.  The most significant part of the planning is deciding that you are going to take this step and then determining what assistance you need.  Whether you work with an intermediary or not, the next part is critical.

Put your plan together right away.  Why?  Because you are headed into tax season and, in our experience, no one wants to work on their sale during or even right after tax season.  Why does this matter?  We see two highly active periods during which practitioners invest time and energy in the exploration and evaluation of acquisition opportunities.  The first of these periods begins around May 1 and ends around June 15.  So, if you are not organized prior to tax season and do not have the energy or interest in getting organized during the two weeks immediately after tax season, you will miss an important window of opportunity with potential buyers/merger partners.

You have many options in the market from selling your accounting practice on your own to listing with a brokerage firm.  In my business process, I discuss the following as I help clients plan for their sale next year:

  • We set up the listing in December or January.  The client sends in financial and other information so I can draft my 9-page report on their accounting practice sale.  We have our conversations to address questions and finalize the report prior to the client getting too busy with tax season.
  • The client focuses on tax season and I do not disturb or interrupt them during this busy time since my report and promotion are now working for them.
  • On March 16th, I begin the promotion of the accounting practice for sale.  I field inquiries and begin to develop a pool of potential candidates. All of this is done without bothering my client, the seller.
  • Around April 1st, I check in with the client to remind him that I will need updated financials soon.
  • Around May 1st, when the market picks up considerably, awareness of the sale is pretty high (based on six weeks of promotion) and we have serious candidates.

The key to all of this is that my client (the seller of the accounting practice) does not spend valuable tax season time with me or prospective buyers and they do not miss the first peak in market activity that occurs in May.

So, if you have decided you are going to exit or sell your accounting practice in 2011, get it set up prior to tax season to maximize your opportunity to build the largest pool of prospects and, as a result, find the best buyer for your business.

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