Buying a CPA Practice in Atlanta, GA: Questions to Ask and How to Get Started
What do I need to know about Atlanta?
Atlanta Georgia is booming right now in both job growth and population growth and is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the nation. This city boasts lower than average housing costs compared to median household incomes when compared to similarly sized metropolitan areas. The average income is $50,720 and the median home price is well under $200,000. The metro population is just over 5.5 million people with the median age of residents being roughly 36. This is a young and vibrant city with an unemployment rate of only 4.5%. In fact, according to the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Georgia has been voted for several years in a row as the best state for doing business. Atlanta is home to more Fortune 500 company headquarters than any other state, even more than Nashville and Dallas combined.
Atlanta has several sprawling suburbs and is in constant development with many neighborhoods that were previously in decline being revitalized. This Georgia capital features amazing restaurants, a Tony-Award winning theater, the largest indoor aquarium in the Western Hemisphere and a surprising amount of greenery for a large city. Atlanta is coined the “city in a forest” because of the numerous trees that scatter the city. Southern charm and hospitality help shape this energetic and family-friendly place, making Atlanta a great area to live and work.
What is the CPA practice market like in Atlanta?
As of the time of this publication, we did a widespread search and found a total of only 12 accounting practices for sale in Atlanta. The asking purchase price average was just $477,607. We were a bit surprised that more practices were not available.
Location is a big factor in how CPA practices are valued. Since Atlanta is a major metropolitan area, multiples for accounting practices for sale in Atlanta will be higher than in smaller cities. For a more in-depth discussion on how accounting practices are valued, please read our column on the six major factors that impact pricing – CPA PRACTICE VALUATION – THE KEY FACTORS
Who are we and how can we help?
Brannon Poe of Poe Group Advisors has been assisting with the sale and acquisition of accounting firms since 2003. Our team has been one of the leaders in the industry when it comes to successful closings. We assist not only with the matching of the right buyers to the right sellers, but we help ensure that both parties have an easy transition. Some buyers have been incredibly profitable and have transformed their practices into multi-million dollar firms. While we have seen great success stories, sadly, we have also seen a few failures that have given us the ability to help you avoid mistakes. We hope to share that insight with you so that you might be able to make better decisions as you approach the purchase of a practice.
Why do people buy any business?
For me personally, the decision to own my own business came down to freedom. I enjoy the ability to make decisions for myself. I’m in control of my earnings, of my vacation time, who I work with and so on. I think if you are driven, honest, focused and have an entrepreneurial spirit, then you may as well work hard for yourself. I can’t imagine working 9-5 on someone else’s schedule now.
That’s not to say it is easy. In fact, being your own boss can come with a whole host of challenges. While you may be able to set your own schedule, make your own decisions, make more money, hire and fire, you also can:
- Lose money
- Make mistakes
- Get distracted
Working for yourself takes a great deal of discipline, an ability to learn from your mistakes and stay focused on your goals. It is hard work but completely worth the effort.
Does my mindset matter?
Of course it does! It matters a lot. When you first contemplate the idea of owning your own firm, you must realize that it is like owning any other business. A good CPA does not always equate to a good business owner. A successful CPA firm owner must be a jack of many trades and have a firm understanding of marketing, sales, hiring, managing as well as have both the necessary technical and people skills. If you think you have what it takes to be both a CPA and business owner, download our white paper on what it takes to be successful by visiting https://poegroupadvisors.com/buying-a-cpa-practice-do-you-have-what-it-takes
At Poe Group Advisors, our experience has been that having the right answers is great, but it’s more important to ask the right questions! As a buyer, asking excellent questions will lead you to the right practice for you. Therefore, we are going to supply you with some of the best questions we’ve encountered from past successful buyers of CPA firms.
What questions should I be asking of myself before I begin my search for a firm?
- What does my practice need to look like in three years’ time for me to feel happy with my purchase?
- What are my personal and professional strengths?
- What are my personal and professional weaknesses?
- Where do I want to live and am I willing to relocate?
- What aspects of a practice will be deal breakers for me when looking to buy? (For example, would you buy a practice that largely works in a niche you are unfamiliar with?)
- Who is my ideal client?
- What sort of fee structure do I want?
What questions should I ask of the practices I find myself interested in buying?
Sometimes there is an urge to dive into the details of a practice. Resist that urge and first ask these high-level questions before moving forward:
- What is the cash flow to the owner?
- How many hours does the owner work, and how is that related to the cash flow of the firm?
- How is employee retention?
- What skillsets to the employees have?
- Does the team like one another and get along?
- What roles need to be filled?
What should I focus on when initially evaluating a practice to buy?
Please keep in mind, every practice will have its flaws, even one you may build yourself from the ground up. When looking for a practice to purchase, you want to look for a good fit, not the perfect firm. Buying a practice gives you an immediate revenue stream and a way to become a successful business owner with less struggle.
You will want to focus on these seven key areas when deciding if a practice is a good fit for you:
- Focus on the client base and the type of work they will expect of you. Can you relate to their needs and do you feel you have the ability to bring them value with your services?
- You must trust the seller. A good connection with the current owner is key to understanding the practice.
- Know the background of the seller. Understanding his or her skill set will help you know if the two of you align.
- Pay attention to the firm’s management style and understand your own. Do you think you will be able to manage the number of staff and is the environment structured or flexible? This can prove important when determining competitive threats and hiring and firing needs of the practice.
- Understand the technical skills needed within the practice.
- Know the key risks areas of the practice. The most common risks we see are as follows:
- Very large clients
- Staff competitive threats
- A poor transition where early communication with staff and clientele is not practiced
- Know the potential of the practice. It may not be perfect and that is okay. Purchasing a practice in need of attention can be a great way to acquire a firm at a great price where you can make key changes that could heavily increase your revenue and profit.
What are the key areas most buyers focus on during due diligence?
This can seem intimidating, but we assure you the process of due diligence will be easier than you think. This will not be a formal audit and in most cases, review of the practice can be done within a couple of days.
Again, the order of the process is important – starting first with high-level information and working your way down to more detailed information. You want to ensure that you are able to grasp the big picture of the practice.
These are the areas most buyers choose to focus on during due diligence:
- Getting to know the seller
- Understanding the current staff
- Knowing the clientele industries and ages
- Reviewing the firms finances and fee structure
- Reviewing some of the client files
- Tying of reported revenue to bank statements and/or tax returns
- Reviewing accounts receivable
Most importantly, we always encourage our clients to trust their gut and to be prepared to ask great questions.
What is the value of an intermediary?
An intermediary can add an immeasurable amount of value to a deal and minimize stress and confusion for both the buyer and the seller. An intermediary often ensures a good match between buyer and seller, matching the right buyer skill-sets to the right practice. We also act as your point person for acquiring good financing as well as contract negotiations. At Poe Group Advisors we strive to provide our clients with concierge level service and we do the following very well:
- Buffer negotiations and keep them going at a reasonable pace
- Keep clients focused on the high-level decisions
- Provide guidance to both parties through the entire process
- Coach our clients about successful practices for transition and integration to ensure that they maximize their results after purchase
We are actively and aggressively targeting accounting practices for sale in Atlanta. If you would like notifications when new CPA practices become available in Atlanta, please register at: https://poegroupadvisors.com/buying/interestedbuyer/
One last note:
“It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.” ~ Warren Buffet