All posts from March 2011

We Have a Buyer that Wants to Buy Your Specific Accounting Practice, Today!

by Ken Berry, CBI

Beware of the headline above!  It is likely you will receive a letter or email to this affect in the coming weeks.  Don’t fall for it.

Why?  Because it probably isn’t true.

The truth is that all brokers and consultants that specialize in accounting practice sales have a database of potential buyers they have spoken with or that have registered with their firm.  We are in constant contact with these “buyers” and typically only receive serious inquiries from them when a practice of interest comes on the market.

You need to ask yourself, why would a buyer request a broker get involved and represent the seller? Answer, they don’t contact brokers to do this because they do not see a direct benefit, in price and terms, when they increase the knowledge and expertise on the seller side of the negotiating table.

You might be thinking, “but they asked specifically about my practice.”

One of the main concerns any seller has is “who is going to take over my practice, take care of my clients and look after my staff?” If this is your concern, be wary of rushing to the easy answer this headline proposes.  We had dialog with several owners that jumped last year at the hope this message provides and there was no specific buyer, for many this was true through the entire three to six month term of the contract they signed.

When an owner lists their practice for sale with ProHorizons, we create a market by building a large pool of potential buyers around the listing.  The buyer pool is interviewed and whittled down until we feel we have selected the best candidates based on the priorities and concerns the seller has shared with us through our thorough consultations with the seller.

Bottomline: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

If you are interested in having a conversation about selling your practice, and want to work through a successful, proven methodology to find a good buyer, we would be happy to talk with you.  You can reach us at 800-729-3242.

Comments (2) • Posted March 31st, 2011 at 7:03am

The Accounting Client Experience, Part 3:  The Office Visit

by Ken Berry, CBI

Continuing with our third and final part of The Accounting Client Experience, let’s put ourselves in your clients’ shoes.  How are clients treated when they visit your office?

The Front Desk
First, what is the demeanor of the person manning your front desk?  Is the person naturally engaging and welcoming or is he/she naturally confrontational and off putting?  Putting the right person in this role should be the first part of your policy.

Once you have the right person, what should the welcoming procedure be? This may differ depending on whether you have drop offs or appointments.  Perhaps drop offs are warmly greeted, asked if they have any questions, asked if all the paperwork is in order and then they are informed they will be contacted with follow up questions.  Finally, they are thanked by name and wished a good day.

An appointment client might be asked to have a seat and asked whether they would like coffee, tea or water.  The accountant they are meeting is notified the client has arrived and the client is informed how long the wait will be if any.  Upon leaving the office the appointment client is thanked (by name if possible) and wished a good day by the front desk staff.

A pleasant, well structured, and consistent front desk procedure will provide the clients with comfort and familiarity every time they visit the office and will go a long way to creating a great first impression and setting up a productive meeting.  The opposite is true as well and I will confess that I no longer am a client of a very nice optometrist, who was highly referred and highly regarded, because I grew tired of how rude her front desk staff was to me and everybody else.

Greeting Clients
How does your staff greet clients?  Is there a smile, a hello and a handshake?  Is it a policy in your firm?  It should be.  Again, consistency assures that the clients expectations are in alignment with the experience.  If I work for you and I have a great, warm greeting with the clients for six years and then leave the firm, what happens with those clients when they come in the next time and are given an indifferent greeting? It may not happen right away, but in time the relationship will deteriorate.

On a few occasions, I have been in firms where every person I passed in the hallway would offer me a hello or at least a smile.  They didn't know me or why I was even in the office, but that made no difference. Talk about a welcoming environment.

Meeting with Clients
This is a substantial topic and there are many resources in the market for how to have a successful meeting, so I will again keep it very short and simple.  I am always surprised when a practitioner complains that their meetings go too long because the client talks too much about personal stuff.  This indicates one of two things to me, either the practitioner doesn’t value the relationship with their clients enough or they do not manage the meeting well.  So, two fixes:

1) Control the meeting.  Have an agenda for your meeting.  I use a simple bullet pointed list of five items we are going to go over with the first being “Why am I here?”  Your list should start with “Why are you here?” for new clients and “What has happened since our last meeting?” with returning clients.  This is where you will catch up on the personal stuff.

2) Remember, the personal stuff is critical and listening to it tells the client you care.  First, some of it will direct your work with them and, second, without it you are likely no different to them than any other practitioner they have worked with in the past.  The use of an agenda will help you manage the time spent on personal stuff and empower you to move to other items without risking any offense.

Clarifying Next Steps
Every meeting or important conversation should end with discussing next steps.  We call this providing a clear future.  If it is a tax appointment, is anything else needed and if so when, when will the return be complete and filed, what else is required of the client and when will the next appointment take place.  Finally, what will the next communication be (email, phone, appointment) and when will it occur?

Some of these might seem obvious, but policies and procedures for your front desk, for how to greet clients, for how to meet with them, and for how to determine next steps are critical in defining how your firm treats clients. Remember, how much a client likes your firm may have as much influence on them as the level of competence your firm demonstrates.  It is often the difference in client retention and client referrals and can turn a short term client (2-3 years) that worked with a single preparer into a client with a 20 year relationship with several different preparers in your firm.

Comments (0) • Posted March 10th, 2011 at 9:15am

Tax Season is the Easiest Time to Increase the Value of Your Accounting Practice

by Ken Berry, CBI

Even though its tax season, it is still very important that you consider ways that you can increase the value of your firm.

Fee Increases are Important

The number one way you can increase the value of your business is to increase your income.  A little increase can go a long way.  A 3 to 4% increase seems like a very small amount and it is hardly noticeable to your clients, but it compounds to you every year and over time.

If you consider a 3 to 4% increase over a 10-year period, it takes what was a $300 tax return and makes it a $400 to $420 tax return.  The value of practices is primarily based on the gross income, so in this 10-year model you would increase the value of your practice by approximately 35%.  Not a bad return on your investment.

Another way to look at this is based on a single year; a $300 tax return from last year now becomes $312 with a 4% increase.  Not a lot of money.  But let’s say you have 500 tax returns you just increased by $12.  That becomes $6,000 in your pocket every year, now we are starting to talk real money, particularly since its going to go straight to the bottom line.

Look for New Clients when You are Busy

Another often overlooked area of increasing the value of your practice is client acquisition.  CPAs are very busy during tax season and tend to focus their efforts on providing services to the clients they already have.  A laudable goal.

But remember, the tax season is an ideal time of the year to reach out to new clients because it’s the one time a year that taxes are on people’s minds.  Not everyone’s but the collective mind of the society.  Consider all of the advertising that takes effect during tax season, whether it is advertising for H&R or Jackson Hewitt, or advertising for some tax resolution service on TV, radio, or the Internet.  Advertising for tax services is at its peak during tax season.

That is when your prospects, your future clients’, think about taxes.  Not during the summer when you are slow and have time to market to them.  They are going to be much more responsive to your message now than at any other time of year.

Reaching out to them could take the form of a variety of different methods.  It could be meeting them at the Chamber of Commerce.  And who does not need a little break from the office to attend a chamber mixer.  It could be doing a direct mail piece to small business clientele.  It could be appointment setting telemarketing for small business clientele and taking that opportunity to try to meet with them.

I realize that during tax season you are all very busy but you would serve yourself well to spend a little bit of time and resources on marketing.  Extend a few extra tax returns this year and spend just a few hours a week on marketing your services.  It will help increase the value of your practice dramatically over the years and it will put more money in your pocket this year.

Comments (2) • Posted March 3rd, 2011 at 12:55pm