The Staying Power Blog

We write about our own experience scaling a professional services firm. Learn from our successes and failures. 

Challenges for Buying and Selling a Firm and the Value Ladder with Brannon Poe

Posted by Ben Isley on Sep 29, 2020 8:00:00 AM

Brannon Poe is the CEO of Poe Group Advisors, where he and his team take a consulting-based approach to transitioning accounting firms from one owner to another through their unique process for seamless succession.

Brannon began his career at EY and is a CPA. After about five years in public practice, he began focusing on mergers and acquisitions in the CPA industry.

Poe Group Advisors

"The first hire is a good admin person. That just changes your life."

Brannon then began hiring brokers and then expanded to market leaders based on regions of North America. The company is primarily in the southeast but spans up the entire east coast and throughout Canada. The western U.S. is the next frontier.

Challenges for Buying and Selling a Firm

"The biggest challenge most owners have is timing. When is the right time to sell your business. It's such a personal decision."

Brannon helps the firm owners prepare for a sale, educates them about the timeline and what a true exit looks like, and advises on anything that should be done in the firm before sale.

"Sometimes buyers get over-eager or fully think-through what kind of practice will be right for them. It's a scary thing to try and buy a business, we try and help people focus on the fit and not try and force something."

Accounting firms are generally traded on a multiple of revenue. Other major factors include location/market, size, profitability, and owner hours. Owner hours has been increasing in relevance lately. It's hard to find buyers who are willing to tackle a practice with very high owner hours.

Value Ladder and Value Pricing

Brannon believes pricing is likely the easiest change to make. Many CPAs are cheap and believe their clients are also cheap. In reality, many clients are service-sensitive, not price-sensitive. Firms should look to beef up their other valuable offerings, such as tax planning and advisory, and look to keep clients in their ecosystem by providing great services.

The industry is changing quickly. This applies to everything from pricing models to services provided. Fixed pricing and value pricing are now normal compared to hourly billing. Free education, support, and content are great ways to build trust with clients before they ever sign.

Learn more about Brannon and his work:

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