It’s common wisdom that a home for sale seldom looks better than when it’s ready to be shown to prospective buyers. All those repair and maintenance tasks that had been repeatedly put off are now complete in order to showcase the property in the most flattering and enticing light.
The same holds true for CPA firms contemplating a merger - the more attractive your firm to potential successors, the better the opportunity to facilitate a strong and lasting union while attracting the best possible deal terms.
So in late April when the dust settles after another frenzied filing season, many practices looking for the answer to their succession plan or perhaps simply for continued growth, will be looking toward the M&A arena as a solution to their individual strategies.
We’re often asked what makes a firm attractive to a potential suitor. And our answer is that it’s usually an equitable mixture of cosmetics and solid metrics.
When a seller firm intends to put itself up as a merger candidate, I usually ask the owner or owners to perform a bit of role reversal in order to take a holistic view of the practice with a critical eye.
First, I tell them to imagine they’re walking into their reception area for the first time. Is it clean with updated décor, or is it a hangover from the early 1980s? Are the offices and/or cubicles tidy and are staff working off multiple computer screens or are the workstations a repository for scattered papers and rows of filing cabinets?
Do you have a long-term lease? If so, that will severely restrict the number of potential suitors – especially if they already have an office in the area as they either have to assume the obligation or sublet the space.
The first contact they’ll have is with the receptionist.