Thinking of Selling your CPA Firm? It’s the perfect time.
Accounting Firms are in high demand right now & these 6 tips can help get yours ready for sale.
The financial climate in the Southeast is thriving right now. Unemployment rates are at a record low, Charlotte is emerging as a hotspot for expansion, and small business owners are optimistic about the future. While the business atmosphere is flourishing, the Accounting industry is changing, and business owners are striving to adjust. All of these factors come together to create a Seller’s Market, putting business owners in a rare but advantageous position if they have been thinking about selling their Accounting firm.
The Accounting field has gone through some changes over the years and is still transforming as an industry to cope with our economy’s current trends. For the first time, we’re seeing less of the younger generations enter the Accounting field, and as our Baby Boomers start to retire, firms are struggling to recruit talent to fill their shoes. We’re also seeing massive buyer demand and growth in metropolitan cities to accommodate increased tax regulations on businesses. Profit margins are around 19% and overall, this is a relatively low-risk business, with an above average customer loyalty rate. All of these trends can benefit the owner of an Accounting Firm that is looking to sell, but before selling, every business owner should know what their business is worth. While only a professional intermediary can tell you the true value of your business, these formulas may give you an idea of the critical factors that are used to calculate the value.
- 100-125% of annual revenues
- 2-7x EBIT, 2.2-6x EBITDA, 1-3x SDE
Now that you understand what factors go into calculating a business valuation, we have some tips that can help you increase the value of your Accounting firm. While you may not be ready to sell for a few months, these tips can help you get a much higher price and attract more buyers when that time comes.
“Our Process was pretty quick, it was only about 4 or 5 months. Their really good at knowing what the potential obstacles can be, and really eliminating those obstacles”
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Expansion through M&A
Because our Baby Boomers are retiring so rapidly, plus the challenges in growing an Accounting Firm, business owners are turning to mergers and acquisitions as a growth strategy. More business owners in the industry are recognizing M&A as an expansion method, and are purchasing smaller firms to expand their reach, add services, and increase their revenues. As the owner of an Accounting firm, this puts you in a very favorable position to sell your business. The buyer demand in this sector is colossal and as a former owner of BGW, a Lake Norman CPA firm, I can speak from experience that M&A can triple your business’s worth. I started a firm, bought another, merged the two, and then sold out after growing from 0-40 employees and opening 4 offices in 2 regions of North Carolina. While growing your firm through M&A can take a few years, if you are looking to sell now, buyers are willing to pay top dollar for CPA businesses in the Charlotte area.
Sales & Marketing
Due to high customer loyalty and retention rates, it is unusual to find a CPA firm that has a sales and marketing program. As a business owner looking to increase the value of their firm, this gives you an advantage. Identify where your most profitable leads are coming from and focus on increasing activity in that area. Do you get a lot of traffic your website? Create fillable forms allowing prospects to reach out to you with greater ease. Do you get a lot leads through organic search? Try a pay per click campaign to capture users who may be searching outside of your normal box. Consider implementing an email marketing program through MailChimp or ConstantContact to increase engagement among established customers or encourage referrals. Measure everything to see what is working and what isn’t, so that you can improve even further. Taking the time to develop a sales and marketing plan will not only increase your visibility in a quiet market, but it will also give buyers a better view on how they can focus sales and marketing efforts to generate the return on their investment in a purchase.
Culture is often an overlooked, yet critical factor in a business’s success. Culture is something that needs continuous attention and improvement, but is worth it every time. As the owner, it is important that you clearly articulate your vision, niche and focus for your clients, employees, teammates, referral sources, and partners. Establish core values and encourage positivity among your team. Live it, breathe it, do it; don’t just say it. While financials are vital when selling a business, the due diligence process can be shortened because the culture might be more appealing to the buyer than your processes and your numbers.
Client retention in the Accounting field has historically been easier than others. Everyone has a tax guy or gal that they trust, and once a customer has had a good experience, they’ll most likely be back again. While the competition in this industry is less fierce, having a customer retention strategy in place is essential. Something as simple as customer feedback surveys can help identify areas for improvement and ultimately, reaffirm your key client relationships. Rewarding customers via a loyalty program or incentives can also keep them coming back. A buyer will be concerned with client retention and with a consistent process that demonstrates results, that concern can be taken away.
The #1 thing that every buyer looks for in a business is good cash flow. If your business has a steady or upwards trending cash flow, you are in pretty good shape when it comes to buyers and may need to just take a look at other organizational issues to ensure your business is as attractive as possible. If you struggle to keep a consistent cash flow, you may need to consider pre-billing clients if you are not already doing so. Upfront retainers reaffirm client commitments, improve cash cycles and can assist in more frequent budget monitoring. A buyer will find this appealing as cash flow after a transaction will be a key focus or concern of a buyer.
Measure the Good and the Bad
Measure everything! All business brokers will tell you that when preparing to sell your business, organize your financials. Clean financials are crucial, but any additional data showing metrics will help greatly when selling your business. Start measuring marketing results, ROIs, sales volumes and client distributions to not only impress buyers, but also to see where improvement is needed. Having detailed metrics will also shorten the due diligence process and allow for buyers to quickly identify your strengths and weaknesses to accelerate the transaction.
Knowing the value of your Accounting firm is important, even if you are not ready to sell for another 1-2 years. Making a few changes to increase the value of your company will not only help secure a higher sales price when you are ready to sell, but will also help you in other financial situations. Knowing what your business is worth is an important part of growing and at Viking Mergers, we can tell you the value of your business. The professionals at Viking have valued dozens of Accounting Firms, just like yours, for 20 years and for no charge, we can value your business and advise you on when the best time to sell is. Prepare yourself for the future; take these steps to increase the value of your business so that when it comes time to sell, the years of hard work will all be worth it.