How to Prepare a CPA Practice for Sale

Selling your CPA practice is a major step. Putting your accounting firm up for sale involves proper planning to ensure you receive a good price for what is probably your most valuable asset. Ideally, the preparation time for a business sale should be at least a year or two. There are instances when circumstances dictate an expedited preparation period, but otherwise you should plan on being in the practice a while longer. Accounting and CPA Sale

There are several steps to take in order to prepare your CPA practice to attract an ideal buyer. These include:

Organize your Books: Before a serious buyer will even consider your practice, they will want to see that your financial statements are in order. This is especially true in an accounting firm. In general, you should be willing to provide three years (or more) of financial information and tax returns. Be as transparent as possible, and also be ready to explain any bookkeeping practices that may seem unusual.

Look for ways to Increase Profitability: One of the main reasons for preparing far in advance for the sale of your CPA firm is so you have time to show buyers your practice is on an upward trajectory. Buyers want to purchase a firm that is in a growth phase so they can capitalize on the perceived opportunity of future growth. There are two primary ways to increase profitability:

  • Cut Costs
  • Increase Sales

This would be a good time to evaluate the expenditures of the firm and look for ways to increase efficiencies; that is, reduce overhead without compromising quality of service. Chances are there are areas where the firm can save on costs; such as technology upgrades, lower cost vendors, etc.

Another area to look at is marketing. In a well-established CPA practice, much of the new business comes from referrals. However, because of strong referral business, some firms leave money on the table by doing little other marketing to attract new business. These days, there are many low-cost marketing methods (particularly online) that can help grow your clientele. It may be worthwhile to speak with an Internet marketing consultant and set up a growth strategy for your firm over the next year or two.

Develop a Succession Plan: Most buyers will not be ready to assume singular control of the firm on day one. There will likely be a period of several months where you stay on to help ease the transition. At the very least, the new owner will probably want you to serve as a consultant and/or client liaison for a little while. Decide in advance what role you want to serve during the transition period so your buyer will know what to expect.

Receive an Independent Business Valuation: Chances are you have a lot invested in your firm both financially and emotionally. Unfortunately, this may tend to skew your opinion of the firm’s value. When you are ready to decide on the price for your CPA practice, an independent valuation should be performed. It is best to have your valuation done by a business broker with particular experience in CPA practice sales. An accounting industry-focused business intermediary will have a strong reading on the current market for firms in your area, how your practice measures up to the competition, and what specific steps you should take to stand out in the marketplace.

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