Archive for the ‘Mergers’ Category

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

We Call It M&A – Merger & Acquisition. Get Real.

In the CPA profession, we talk a lot about M&A (Merger & Acquisition). Yes, it is because so many baby boomers are aging out, cutting back, retiring or, in many cases, semi-retiring.

You can read a lot about M&A for the accounting profession profession. Just Google it.

You might think that “merging” is mostly about small firms or sole-practitioners “merging” their firm into a larger practice, but in recent times we have seen very large firms “merging,” too.

Here comes the “get real” part – it is an acquisition. If you are not the suitor firm, you have sold your button. There is a story that goes with “sold your button” but I will tell you that story in another post. But, I bet you get the meaning.

On AccountingWEB you can read about the recent “deal” with Rothstein Kass and KPMG. The reason I want you to read the article is the last paragraph.

You might not be a very large firm, like these two, but it is likely that you will be in discussions about M&A for your firm sometime in the near future. I always urge practitioners to talk to other firms and continually explore the M&A options, it doesn’t mean that deal will quickly occur. It is more likely that it will involve talking for a year or more before things are finally settled.

And, don’t be fooled by the comment in that last paragraph, I mentioned above:  “We are looking forward to a seamless transition….. ” Being acquired or acquiring another accounting firm is never easy nor seamless.

  • Sometimes your best investments are the ones you don't make.
  • Donald Trump

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

In The CPA Firm World It Is Merger Mania

AquilaI just keep writing about and talking about the topic of CPA firm mergers. Why? Because I see a news release nearly every single day about so and so merging with so and so.

Yesterday I was reading a newsletter from August Aquila of Aquila Global Advisors and it was about, “Merger Mania – What You Need To Know.” Aquila probably has more CPA firm M&A experience than almost any consultant out there and he always shares valuable information to help you navigate the M&A waters.

The article addresses:

  • Does this make sense for me?
  • Who do I want to merge with?
  • How do I know when I found the right candidate?
  • Make the hard calls first.

The article has extensive comments under each of these bullet points. Read the entire article here.

  • A merger has to be a win-win event or it won't stand the test of time.
  • August Aquila

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Reflect Back But Don’t Forget To Reflect Forward

It’s that time of year. Many of us reflect back on the current year. We think about what went right and what went wrong relating to our business life in the CPA profession (or any profession for that matter). I wanted to pass along two quotes from men of accomplishment. Men we lost in 2013.

Some of you may have left your firm and joined another firm. Some of you may have merged your firm “upward” and some of you have acquired other firms. In either case, both sides have had to struggle with maintaining and embracing culture, brand and identity.

Sometimes, you don’t get your own way….. here’s a quote for any time you are feeling bitterness in your life:

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” – – Nelson Mandela

Some of you might be very new in your career in public accounting. Just because you are in the accounting profession doesn’t mean you should not be bold. It doesn’t mean you should not take more risks with your career. It doesn’t mean you should blame the accounting profession for your boredom. Even very experienced CPAs are way too tentative about many things. Never settle for status quo. Continually move toward opportunity. This quote applies to men and women….

“I will not be a common man. I will stir the smooth sands of monotony. I do not crave security. I wish to hazard my soul to opportunity.” – – Peter O’Toole (at age 18)

  • Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.
  • Nelson Mandela

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Lighten-Up Thoughts About Mergers For Friday

IMG_0084Every where you turn there is something published about the merger frenzy that is occurring in the public accounting profession. Almost every day I read of another combination of firms. Some are larger firms gobbling up smaller firms and many are smaller firms banding together in hopes of survival.

If you are a regular follower of this blog, you know that my mind often drifts into some quirky thinking. I was thinking of all the mergers and this came to mind:

Merger, merger every where,

The number of firms to shrink;

Merger, merger every where,

What are we to think?

Of course, the inspiration for this comes from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It is the longest major poem by the English poet Samual Taylor Coleridge, written in 1797-98 and published in 1798. It’s an interesting story. Read more about it here.

You probably learned the memorable lines as a child, as I did. Here’s a refresher:

Day after day, day after day,

We stuck, nor breath nor motion;

As idle as a painted ship

Upon a painted ocean.


Water, water, every where,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, every where

Nor any drop to drink.

The phrase, “an albatross around one’s neck” also comes from this epic poem, meaning a burden which some unfortunate person has to carry.

This sailors was contemplating survival. The Mariner was carrying an albatross.

How about you?


  • The Devil knows how to row.
  • from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Allan Koltin – Yes, he’s cherubic and chirpy

IMG_2335I’ve known Allan Koltin for a very long time.

When I first met him he was simply selling newsletters to CPAs to send to their clients. We have become good friends over the years and he has always been an advocate, mentor and advisor as I have made my way through a complex career within the CPA profession.

Allan moved with ease from salesman to consultant/advisor to some of the most prestigious CPA firms in the country. Now, according to Crain’s Chicago, he’s “the most interesting man in accounting.

Check out the article published on July 8th to read about how Koltin has become the #1 “mover and shaker” when it comes to CPA firm M&A. They call him “cherubic and chirpy.” It makes me smile because I would never have thought of those words to describe him, but they are true.

Congratulations on the great article, Allan.

  • There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.
  • Helen Keller

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Where Are You And Your CPA Firm Headed, In the Long Run?

Long-RunWhat’s going to happen to your firm in the long run? What’s going to happen to you, as a business professional, in the long run?

Marketing guru, Seth Godin, tells us, “….the long run keeps getting shorter and that the short run has always been short and getting shorter still. In the long run, you get caught, in the long run, kindness wins out, in the long run, we learn about who you really are.”

I bet you and your partners have danced around that “what happens in the long run” topic for years. Some of you are “cashing in your chips” – another name for merging up. Still, many of you are working diligently at creating a firm that can live on. Not an easy task.

In the long run, can your firm continue to compete with the big boys? I believe there is a place for accounting firms of all sizes. Sure, the business world needs the big firms, but a big firm might not be the best fit for small business owners trying to build something for their families.

I feel this, too. I’m not one of the big boys and girls. Many consultants and advisors come across as more powerful, more persistent, someone who can drive those darn partners into submission. Sometimes you need them to do that for you.

Yet, I have advantages. My competitors are great people (just like yours) but most have never worked inside a growing firm like I did for 30 years. If they did work inside a firm, it was decades ago and they were not the person responsible for managing the firm. My other advantage is that I believe in kindness.

As Godin says, “In the long run, kindness wins out and we learn about who we really are.”

  • Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.
  • Theodore Roosevelt

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Merger, Merger Every Where But Maybe Not For Us

Today’s title is a take off on the old rhyme we used as children, “Water, water every where but not a drop to drink.”*

It’s what comes to mind when I read all of the news and articles about mergers in the CPA profession. Seems like every week I read about two or three mergers/acquisitions in the public accounting profession. And yes, in my opinion, you can call them mergers but they really are acquisitions in that there is always a “top dog.”

As I facilitate owner retreats, the “M” word is often on the owners’ minds, mostly because they have not done a good job at dealing with the “S” word (succession). Simple advice here: If you want to pass your firm along to the next generation inside the firm, you have to build a strong culture and operate a “well-run” firm. That means active management, not waiting on something to happen and then reacting. It means a strong career development program and streamlined, efficient, fully adopted operating procedures. Considering this option? Then get busy now!

If you (the owner group) are considering merger/acquisition – do your homework. Today I want to share a very informative article written by Joel Sinkin and Terry Putney of Transition Advisors for the AICPA newsletter – The Practicing CPA. The title of the article is, The Great Mystery: How Do Billing Rates and Profitability Affect a Firm’s Worth?

Here are the topics covered in the article – follow the link above and read the entire article.

  • What You Really Need to Know in an Acquisition: Net Profit
  • What You Really Need to Know in a Merger: Partner Profitability
  • Billing Rates: Do They Really Matter?
  • Deal Terms: How to Factor in Profitability

*The line is from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, published in 1798:

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

In thinking about your firm’s future, are you “stuck with no motion?” Are all your boards shrinking?


  • I keep sailing on in this middle passage. I am sailing into the wind and the dark. But I am doing my best to keep my boat steady and my sails full.
  • Arthur Ashe

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Your CPA Firm’s Flight Plan

I recently had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with Brannon Poe, CPA. Poe is the author of a book, titled Accountant’s Flight Plan Best Practices for Today’s Firms. I found it to be a very readable, on-point guide to some of the most pressing topics in CPA firm practice management.

When Poe got into the business of helping people buy and sell their accounting firms, he started keeping a “deal journal.” It became full of notes, anecdotes, and scribblings as he talked with firm owners. He has helped over one hundred practices to be sold. Later, it dawned on him that all of this information might be worth passing along. Thus, the book.

His findings are right on target and I certainly agree that he did the right thing in writing a book that can be shared with practitioners facing the challenges of running an accounting practice.

I like the titles of his chapters. Click the link to see a preview. Here’s a few examples of the chapter titles:

  • The Beauty of Balance
  • The Client of Choice
  • The Art of the Bill
  • The Rule on Receivables

You can order the book from Poe’s site here.

  • The older I get, the more I see a straight path where I want to go. If you're going to hunt elephants, don't get off the trail for a rabbit.
  • T. Boone Pickens

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

CPA Firm Growth Strategies for 2012

In Aquila Global AdvisorsJanuary newsletter, August Aquila offers this advice:

  1. Beef up your sales and marketing efforts.
  2. Look for new niches.
  3. Think merger.
  4. Add new services.

Read his explanation of each one and the entire article. As he notes – – Don’t play defense. Make it happen in 2012.

  • Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.
  • John F. Kennedy

Friday, July 29th, 2011

CPA Firm Value

During these times of enhanced M&A activity in the CPA profession, firm leaders ask a lot of questions about the value of their firm. There is certainly not one answer to this question and not the point to this blog post.

What I want to stress today is the fact that IF you want your firm to be acquired “someday” you better get busy “today.”  The acquiring firms want firms that have sound leadership and are well-managed.

Steve Erickson has a good post about the 5 Critical Areas That Create CPA Firm Value, here are the activities Erickson cites:

  1. Improve owner unity
  2. Execute appropriate client service strategies
  3. Attract and retain growing, profitable clients
  4. Implement efficient systems and processes
  5. Hire and retain talented people

Easy for me to type these. Easy for all of us to say these. Not as easy to implement and be successful at all of these. There is a lot behind each one.

I encourage you to take each one and have a meaningful conversation among your partner group. How are you doing? What can you do better? How can you actually make progress?

If you need assistance, let me know.

  • Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.
  • Albert Einstein