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10 Questions to Filter M&A Candidates

With the strong M&A activity in the CPA firm community, filtering candidates to find the right fit is extremely important, no matter what side of the table you’re on.

Some firms will have to do a lot of filtering; others don’t have that many options. Of course, data is going to be a primary filter but—ahead of or in tandem with metrics—the parties should probe to assess early flags.

We find the following questions to be very effective in the early stages of M&A:

  1. How would you define success?

  2. What would impede actualization of success?

  3. What concerns do you have?

  4. Have you been involved with post-transaction problems and how do they get handled?

  5. What would make your partners happy if a deal were done?

  6. What are some of the more difficult decisions you have had to make?

  7. How do you define an A-level client?

  8. What are your billing and collection policies and how do you handle poor payers?

  9. Do you use a client acceptance procedure and what does it entail?

  10. What would be the ideal timing?

The answers to the questions and the body language that accompanies the replies are going to help both sides filter. Time is precious. Before you go deep into numbers, get a clear picture on compatibility and flags. Post-transaction difficulties are often tied to poor compatibility that went undetected.

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