My guest blogger for this post is Brannon Poe, CPA of Poe Group Advisors in Charleston, SC, who advises accounting practices on practice management and selling their practices and author of Accountant’s Flight Plan.
There are two dilemmas that rattle the human skull: How do you hang on to
someone who won't stay? And how do you get rid of someone who won't go?
Danny DeVito, in The War of the Roses
When it comes to practice sales, timing is everything. It’s rare for practice partners to have the same exit timetable. Tensions mount when one partner wants out and the remaining partner either doesn’t want to buy the business or sell to a third party. If partners are the same age, the odds for a smooth dissolution are improved, but even a couple of years’ difference can strain a sale.
In a small practice, the process of selling or retiring is complicated for both the senior and junior partner in question. Motivations are completely opposed. The senior partner is ready to move on, while the junior member is often very resistant—understandably apprehensive about the changes this will mean for the business’s operation and his or her livelihood. Change is rarely welcome, and taking on a new outside partner can be a frightening prospect, as is the possibility of running the practice without the senior partner. Finding the right replacement partner is far easier said than done—just ask any departing partner who has tried to please an objection-filled remaining partner! Sometimes the junior partner is empowered by this naysayer role, and any perceived previous injustices seem to rise to the surface as negotiations move forward.
Making someone a partner is a significant step, one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you feel that partnership is the right path for your practice, great care should be given to selecting an attorney who can help structure your partnership agreement. This contract should clearly address exit strategies by any one or a group of partners. Excellent legal advice at this juncture is one of the best investments you’ll ever make.
Spend some time and money on your partnership agreement and make sure the lawyer you use has significant experience in this area. You’ll be glad you did.
Brannon Poe, CPA
The above is an excerpt from Accountant’s Flight Plan, Best Practices for Today’s Firms.