Sell Your CPA Firm When You Have Something Pulling You Out

This morning, I had an interesting conversation with a 60+ year old accountant who is probably a few years away from selling his accounting firm.  He had a lot of questions about timing.  He was somewhat struggling about when he should exit from his CPA firm.  On the one hand, he seemed to be concerned with when he was supposed to retire.  After all, there is some pressure to retire when one just gets to be nearing retirement age.  On the other hand, he still loved what he does, and couldn’t imagine giving that up.

Below is a summary of our brief Q&A conversation:

When do you see that most people retire?

It varies a lot.  Some people sell their firms at a young age due to another career opportunity.  As far as when most people sell in order to retire, I’d say the average falls between 60 and 70 years old.

Have you ever seen people go far beyond age 70?

Yes-We have had clients in their late 80’s and even in their 90’s sell their practices.  I really don’t think age should be the driving force in the decision about when to sell.  For example, if you can assume for a moment that money isn’t an issue, then you should sell your CPA firm when you have something pulling you out.  We speak with accountants everyday who for various reasons call us to discuss their exits.  Many call us because they are experiencing burn-out and they think they may want to sell.  Burnout should be a signal to reflect on your practice and on your goals, but rarely is it reason enough to sell.  It probably means that it’s time to make some important changes to your practice.  That said, it can prompt an owner to think about retirement which is probably a good thing.

So when should people sell?

Our clients who, post-close,  have reported being happiest about the decision to sell, have, hands down – been people who have significant things that they want to do after the sale.  A few examples from past clients would be:

  • Take time to explore a new business opportunity.
  • Travel extensively.
  • Relocate to be closer to and to help take care of grandchildren.
  • Write a novel.
  • Focus on ministry work.
  • Move to another country.
  • Pursue several hobbies.
  • Buy and sell real estate.
  • Pursue a new business opportunity

The bottom line is, if you are happy and love owning your firm, you shouldn’t let anyone talk you out of keeping it.

As with most matters of the heart, you will just know when it’s time….and timing is everything.

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