Selling an Accounting Practice Checklist

Selling an Accounting Practice Checklist: How to Get Started

Make sure that you are setting your practice up for an easy sale when the time comes. Strategically planning the areas of your practice to improve upon will make the greatest impact once your practice is on the market.

Understanding Your Timing, Goals and Objectives

  • What’s your time frame?
  • What will I do after my exit?
  • Establish/revisit personal retirement goals
  • How long will it take to market my practice?
  • How long will it take to transition to a new owner?
  • Develop business goals and objectives
  • Have you made a committed decision to sell? Are there any personal obstacles that would prevent you from selling?
  • Determine if Owner/Founder goals differ from Business goals
  • Evaluate readiness for succession planning and leadership development
  • Have you developed a clear and accepted vision for the future of the practice?

Financial Considerations

  • Financially, am I where I need to be in order to exit?
  • What other needs for capital do I have (e.g. the need for capital to pay debts, capital gains tax or to provide an equitable estate to all family members)
  • Do I have appropriate budgeting and cash flow management?
  • Do I know what my practice is worth?

Getting Your Business Ready for a Sale

  • Does the business drive the owner or does the owner drive the business?
  • Analyze pricing of services and efficiency
  • What processes are in place to support day-to-day operations?
  • Correct any staffing issues
  • Identify and do any necessary renovations to the interior and exterior of the building
  • Make sure all books are up-to-date
  • Clean out the clutter
  • Improve Accounts Receivable Aging
  • Is your practice properly focused? Are there lines of work that need to be eliminated?
  • Are there clients that need to be referred elsewhere?
  • Involve family and others in your thinking
  • To what degree do business success and value rely on your skills and relationships?
  • What is the condition of your market? Any recent sale prices of similar practices?
  • How valuable are your key local staff to success?
  • Make succession planning a strategic goal
  • Getting your business ready for a buyer often takes two years or more. Are you prepared to:
    • Undergo a full financial review
    • Consider tax implications
    • Implement a strategy to optimize cash flow
    • Consider the implications of selling the shares versus the assets of your practice
    • Document key processes and procedures

Legal Processes

  • Establish your team of professional advisors: Lawyer, Financial Advisor, Lender, Intermediary
  • Review partnership/shareholder agreements
  • Review contractual agreements
  • Is there a buy-sell purchase agreement with a mandatory or optional buy-out or other measures to appropriately protect against the quick exit of an owner?
  • Establish the terms for restrictive covenants and non-competition agreements for partners leaving the firm
  • Secure assignable non-solicitation agreement/non-compete agreement from key staff

Emergency Succession Planning

  • Ensure that key relationships and contacts are documented
  • Create and update a binder or digital files that includes key documents such as strategic/operational plans, annual and monthly calendars of organizational activities, etc.
  • Do you have a contingency plan for events such as death, disability or failure to identify an appropriate successor?
  • What part of your succession plan will have to be altered in the event of your premature death?
  • Do you have a properly structured buy-sell provision in your shareholders’ agreement dealing with the timing, amount and financing of the purchase of your business interest?
  • Is there a need to inject capital into the business to finance interim management, consulting or executive search fees and expenses?
  • Establish provisions for partners and shareholders
    • Wishing to retire
    • Withdrawing equity
    • Settling and estate
    • Handling arbitration of disputes
    • Expelling a partner
    • Selling to an outsider
  • Establish provisions to value the share of a partner who retires, dies, and becomes permanently disabled or is exiting the business for any other specified reason

Qualify Successors (Buyers)

  • What are unique skills of the Owner? Can they be replaced?
  • Management team strength?
  • Identify what roles to plan for Succession
  • Understand future needs, skills, and competencies
  • Create Development Plans to close gaps.
  • Overall business understanding (leadership)
  • Many practice owners prefer to sell their business to an employee. To do this while also protecting your retirement goals, you must qualify successors as a prospective buyer:
    • Identify successors from within your business
    • Assess current skills of successor(s) and identify the training required
    • Determine their current and future financial capacity to buy your business
      • Ability of potential Successor in terms of:
        • Operations (general management)
        • Marketing
        • Technical Ability
        • Efficiency
        • Client Relations
        • Risk Tolerance
        • Financial management, Human resources management, Computers and information management


  • Measure frequently and revisit models and plans as environment and priorities shift
  • Periodically assess effectiveness of leadership development and succession planning – adjust as needed
  • Develop a communication plan for third parties (clients, vendors and employees)
  • Begin relinquishment of control




Is your practice optimized? Take this simple one-page scorecard to find out. Through our experience of selling countless accounting practices and working with many successful owners over the years, our team has identified several common threads that we believe drive results in small and mid-sized accounting practices. We created a tool to help you gain insight on the 12 key mindsets and factors that have helped past owners maximize the values of their firms at closing.



Find out how much your Accounting Practice is worth. What is the approximate value of your accounting firm? Download our free report to learn about what drives accounting practice values. Find out about:

  • The fundamental principles we use to analyze practice value
  • Learn about the Key Factors that drive up the value of your practice



Is your practice ready for market? In this guide, you will get powerful, yet practical insights to help you plan a successful exit from your firm. Put years of accounting practice transition experience to work for you in your succession planning. Determine your timing for a sale, Internal vs. External sale considerations, the most achievable strategies to improve your practice if you plan to exit in 1 to 5 years, the “Must Do’s” before putting your practice on the market.



Several tools can help owners improve their accounting practices. Our books – Accountant’s Flight Plan and On your Own, published by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and presented in workbook style – are a great place to start. Both books include stimulating questions at the end of each chapter. For the latest insights, check out our podcasts with industry thought-leaders.


FAQs –

Looking to start the next chapter of your life? Our experts answer your most frequently asked questions to help make your transition as seamless and simple as possible.