We did expect there to be a slowing down of the buying and selling of accountancy practices during lock down and that was exactly what we found.
However, some things have changed:-
- Sellers meeting potential buyers
- Some vendors have insisted on meeting potential buyers face to face. This can only be done where social distancing is able to take place. Many first meetings with buyers are now done via a virtual meeting ie Zoom. They are not as good as face to face but they are much better than a phone call.
- About a third of the deals we were working on have been delayed to the end of the year or into next year. The tax return season has muddied the waters here delaying some completions that were due to take place by March or April this year to March or April next year. This has put considerable strain on the vendors who were looking to sell and retire up to 6 months ago.
- There does not seem to have been a big difference here, though some sellers have been able to secure higher than average multiples. This may be due to the fact that nearly all practices have lost clients and buyers are loathe to make staff redundant, so would rather buy in fees to replace the clients lost through Covid.
- Due Diligence
- We have brokered deals where due diligence was done virtually. The buyer was able to do the checking needed, by the seller emailing all necessary paperwork ie accounts, bank statements, fee notes etc. Most buyers have preferred to do a face to face due diligence meeting. When asked by a seller “How long does due diligence take?” the answer was “Until the buyer is satisfied.” Some buyers will do a cursory check of the paperwork and other buyers will look at almost every file. Due diligence can take half a day or several day, it depends.
- Meeting the clients post sale
- This has been a big issue for a lot of buyers. Building a relationship with the newly acquired clients is vital to ensure a high retention. Some buyers have the attitude that most people in business have had to adapt to the “new normal” of working, where direct contact with their own clients is minimal. Many of the accountant’s clients, where informed that their accountant is retiring and a new accountant has taken over, will neither want nor desire a face to face meeting with the new owner. Provided there is sufficient communication during the hand over this has not proved to be an issue. However, having said that, we have some buyers that have delayed completion until March and April 2021, believing they will be able to have the face to face meetings at that point, believing that this would significantly increasing retention. Vendors will have to accept that the time taken to do a deal may be significantly affected if the buyers falls into this category.
Please remember that we do have a lot of experience in helping sellers to sell and buyers to buy. We are still brokering deals during lock down. If you want to talk to someone who knows their “stuff” then contact me, Nicola Draper on 01788 816440 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s have a chat and see how we can help you to get what you want.