Being Empathetic

I truly know how you feel.  I can be empathetic because I have experienced  transferring a business to a new 50% partner, transferring a minority share to an employee, selling a business to a third party, and actually purchasing a business from a third party.  Each transfer had a unique flavor and having someone in your court with experience in each of the situations is very important.  You are looking for the best possible outcome in a transaction where you may have no experience or this may be the one and only time you ever transfer ownership in a business you built.

It could be time to transfer ownership to either expand, which you may be selling anywhere from 1% to 99% to a future business partner who has skills that offset your weaknesses.  Wisely, you may be selling to someone just like you to double in size.  You may also want to move on to your next chapter in life; either transfer your business to a family member, to your employees, or to a third party.  Each process is stressful.  You wonder if you're doing the right thing, and you won't know until the transaction is completed.  Having an advisor help you map out the process based on experience can reduce the stress of the overall process.

It is important to select the right person to sit at the helm after you move on.  As you know we all have clients and customers who have  relied on us individually, and there maybe a little bit of an ego inside that says, “how could someone else run this business, and will my customers be able to do without me”?  Well, guess what?  Life goes on, and your customers have the same basic needs, and if you find someone who is like-minded, caring, and diligent, business will continue. We can help you locate several potential purchasers within our network.  We will interview them initially to determine if they could be the right fit.

Also, transferring your business to your employees through an ESOP or some other method of transfer can be very beneficial for your customers.  I've experienced this process numerous times in my career, and each time I have experienced a positive result.  In the year 2000 I sold 50% of my accounting practice to Jeff Bergman, and we were able to triple the size of the Dallas CPA firm before I moved to Houston, Texas in 2004. Upon moving to Houston, Texas, I built an accounting practice. It is now larger than the practice in Dallas. I also purchased a practice in Cypress, Texas from an individual who built her practice organically. She was concerned that her clients would be upset that she was selling the practice to a third party and thought there could be some attrition. I placed a very good CPA in the Cypress practice and we've had very little attrition. We have actually grown the practice by 100% over the last four years.

In 2007, my business partner in Dallas and I decided to sell the Dallas practice. We found a competent group of CPAs who purchased the practice, and it was transferred to their firm name. The clients were properly serviced and they had very little attrition. We were able to assist with a sound transition period where the client felt we sold to likeminded CPA’s.

Today, I'm setting up a succession plan for my Houston practice. I'm talking with my staff about the possibility of purchasing the practice sometime in the near future, where I may focus on investment banking. I’m going to meet with my banker to determine how much of the price could be financed, the amount of seller note that will be required, and how long would I need to stay involved in the detail.  I have also considered finding a CPA just like me to participate in the purchase with my staff. 

I can be very empathetic with someone who wants to transfer ownership of their business, because I have experienced transitions transferring my business to and equal partner, a minority owner and 100% to a third party. It's important to hire someone who understands what you are going through, what you are thinking, and to help you get through your transaction.