How to Find Serious Buyers When Selling Your CPA Practice

At some point, most CPAs reach the point when it is time to sell their practice. Retirement, health or family issues, whatever the case may be, if you do not already have a successor, there will come a time when you need to look for a buyer. If you are just in the early stages of planning your CPA practice sale, it is important to realize the process is likely to last several months or even a year or two. First you have to take steps to make sure the practice is ready to be put on the market. And once your practice is “marketable”, you need to find the right buyer. Are You Ready to Sell Your CPA Practice?

Finding qualified buyers for your accounting practice can be a major challenge. In fact, a vast majority of initial responses to an advertisement are from ‘tire kickers’; that is, individuals who are not qualified and not in a position to purchase your firm. This can quickly become a major time waster sifting through numerous unqualified inquiries for every one serious prospect. To overcome this challenge, you need to implement an effective pre-screening process.

Here are some important considerations when screening buyers for your CPA practice:

  • Divulge minimal information in the initial advertisement: confidentiality is critical during the selling process, so make sure your advertising is as general as possible.
  • Use a separate email and phone number for initial inquiries: in the interests of confidentiality, prospective buyers should never be given your office phone number or email account, and giving out your personal email, home or cell phone numbers is not a good idea either. Set up a completely separate email address and phone number to handle the sale.
  • Develop pre-qualifying questions for prospects: those who are serious about buying your firm will be willing to go through the pre-qualifying process. Create detailed questions about their background, finances and other critical areas that will determine if they will be a good fit for your practice.
  • Determine what information to give buyers at each stage: in the beginning, you need to get a good sense as to whether or not the buyer is serious. As things progress, however, you will need to give out more details about your firm. Decide ahead of time what information buyers should receive at each stage in the process.
  • Create confidentiality agreements for serious buyers: As you move further along in the process, there will come a time when confidential information will have to be divulged. Draw up agreements ahead of time so you are legally protected from prospective buyers stealing your critical information.

Consider Using an Intermediary

When selling an accounting practice, the buyer screening process can be difficult and time-consuming. In addition, critical missteps during this process can become quite costly. The best way to avoid these potential pitfalls is to work with a skilled business broker; and particularly one with specific experience in CPA practice sales. A strong business intermediary can save you countless hours and ensure a smoother and more successful transaction.

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