The Emotional Side of Selling or Buying a CPA Firm-Part 2

As the “Part 2” of our discussion on emotions sellers and buyers experience, we will start with the emotion of fear.

In the context of selling or buying a CPA firm, all parties experience fear in most phases of the process. Fear, if not addressed, can cause us to totally shut down. A seller and buyer will never close a deal if either party gets stuck in the grip of fear.

What is fear?

Fear is a feeling induced by perceived danger or threat that occurs in certain types of organisms, which causes a change in metabolic and organ functions and ultimately a change in behavior, such as fleeing, hiding, or freezing from perceived traumatic events.

Notice the word perceived in this definition. I want you to keep that word in your mind as we move through the remainder of our discussion. Our perception (emotions, feelings) about a situation, in many cases is very different than the reality or facts (truth) of a situation. It is so important to make sure your emotions are not ruling your choices.

You may be reading this article and think, “What is there to fear?”

Seller fears include the following: Fear of not choosing the right buyer, fear that clients will find out about the sale and choose to locate a new CPA, fear that they will not be paid for the practice, fear that the employees will find out about the sale and seek another job or fear of what they will do after the sale.

Some common buyer fears include: Fear that my current employer will find out I am trying to purchase a firm and fire me, fear of failure, fear that the clients will leave, fear that the employees will leave, or fear they will not enjoy owning or managing the firm.

I am not saying these fears do not have merit, but with the right plan in place, most of these fears can be addressed and minimized. For example, the seller who is fearful of placing the firm on the open market because he is concerned that clients and employees will find out the business is for sale can mitigate these concerns by using non-disclosure agreements with potential buyers.

In our next posts, we will explore the emotions of sadness and excitement. Stay tuned…

About the Author

Picture of Kathy Brents
Kathy Brents
Kathy is a life-long resident of Central Arkansas, where she received her undergraduate degree in accounting from the University of Central Arkansas. Upon graduation, Kathy worked for CPA firms in the Central Arkansas area prior to starting her own CPA firm in Conway, Arkansas in 1986. While practicing public accounting, Kathy had many opportunities to provide guidance to her clients as they were involved in the purchase and sale of many businesses. Kathy sold her own CPA firm in 2006. In 2004, Kathy began her 2nd career in the field of business brokerage. Kathy is also a Certified Business Intermediary (CBI) and a member of the International Business Brokers Association (IBBA).

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