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Setting the Right Expectations for CPA Firm Deals

All parties in a merger or practice sale are motivated to achieve certain outcomes. The primary ones are tied to finances. When the firms have common motivations, it is a good sign that a deal has potential—yet motivation is never enough to get a deal done. Parties must have matching expectations.


Here are five very real and critical expectations that, when shared by the parties, will influence deal success.


  1. Greater operational effectiveness. There will be more efficiencies, greater economies of scale, better technology, improved turnaround time, and more deployment of people at their highest and best purposes.

  2. Improved career path. Firms should expect more (and quicker) opportunities for promotion at all levels in a combination. There will also be an opportunity to work on more stimulating and more diverse projects.

  3. Best practices. There should be an expectation of—and open-mindedness to—sharing better ways of working and better ways of doing things.

  4. Mutual commitment and responsibility. Both sides should envision a combined practice where every person contributes to building and improving the firm. No one should look at an acquisition, for instance, as a “bail-out.” The equation cannot be one-sided.

  5. Enhanced goodwill. The combined practice should be considered a more enviable force in the business community. The appeal to talent, clients, centers of influence, and the next potential partners should be magnified. Reputation and credible quality performance should be taken to a higher level.


Some firms will dedicate time this coming busy season to getting ready to do a deal. Some will consider how busy season would be better because of a deal. Others will focus on what it takes to remain independent. For all, success will be delivered by aligning expectations and setting a process to meet and exceed them.


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