The Emotional Side of Selling or Buying a CPA Firm-Part 4

In our final part of this series on emotions, we will conclude with the emotions of Pride and Satisfaction.

Another emotion commonly experienced by sellers is pride. The word pride usually evokes a negative connotation; however, there is a positive form of pride.  Pride in a job well done. Pride in the fact that a firm owner worked hard to grow and develop a successful business and pride in the fact they provided great service to their clients for many years.

The negative side of pride shows up when a seller truly believes (feels) that his clients will not transition to any other CPA.   When a CPA says they do not believe their clients will allow another CPA to work for them I am amused.  I ask them what their clients will do if they are unable to continue to work.  We are all human and our clients will have no problem filling our shoes with another accountant.   This may sting but it is truth!

Buyers can experience a negative form of pride as well.  They may believe they can buy a CPA firm, begin the transition process after closing and change the entire operations of the business to make things better.  Most buyers are younger than sellers.  It is true that young buyers will be more energetic and many times are more well versed in the latest technology.   Making too many changes too quickly can adversely affect the retention of the clients and/or the employees.  Caution should be given to change.  Conventional wisdom tells us that “status quo” during the initial phase of transition after closing allows all parties involved to get comfortable with the new owner. After a while, change can be welcomed and accepted by all affected parties.

I left the best emotion for last: Satisfaction.  That moment where the deal is inked and the initial transition phase is past.  The seller realizes that his buyer is going to be a good fit for his clients and employees.  He may have been paid at closing, or has a structured payment plan in place that he is comfortable with and he has received positive feedback from his former clients and employees about the sale.  This is the “Ah-ha” moment all sellers hope to experience.

A buyer’s “Ah-ha” moment is similar.  He sees from the first few weeks or months of operating the new business that he can be successful.  The clients and employees have accepted him.  The cash flow of the business is sufficient for all  his needs.   The outlook is good!

As you can see from our discussion, emotions are not good or bad, just not factual.   We need to approach any sale or a purchase of a CPA firm with our eyes wide open, realizing that education of the process and planning are key factors that can help any seller or buyer achieve the “win-win” deal they are looking for!

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