Practice Sales

Do You Have An Exit Strategy?

ARE YOU ASKING ANY OF THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS AS YOU CONTEMPLATE SELLING YOUR ACCOUNTING PRACTICE?

  • Will I find the right buyer for my practice, my staff, and my clients?  
  • Will I get paid? What’s my risk of not getting paid, or not receiving what my practice is worth?
  • How much will it cost me to sell my practice? 
  • When should I sell? 
  • What is my role when engaging a brokerage firm? Will it be complicated or time-consuming? 
  • What is my role in the transition of the practice to the new owner?
  • Can’t I do just as good a job selling it myself?
  • Is my practice well-positioned to sell? If not, what do I need to do to make it attractive to buyers?

EXPERIENCE YIELDS RESULTS

Since 1991—New Clients Inc. has engaged in this dialogue with thousands of accounting professionals on the issue of selling a practice. We’ve translated that experience into a proven accounting practice sales methodology resulting in success stories from sellers and buyers nationwide.

Watch this brief video on why NCI: 

WHY NEW CLIENTS INC?

Choosing New Clients Inc. to guide your accounting practice sale gains you access to:

  • Nationwide exposure to thousands of prospective buyers through our huge in house database. Your identity remains anonymous until we’ve developed a candidate for you to meet and evaluate.
  • Extensive promotion through integrated direct marketing, our search engine optimized website, email marketing campaigns, industry resources, and promotions localized to your geographic area.
  • Efficient use of your time, as we manage all inquiries, screen prospects, and present candidates meeting technical criteria (e.g., is the prospect capable of running your practice?) and who are financially situated to put a deal together. We require a personal financing statement from all prospective buyers.
  • Financial assistance for qualified buyers through our established banks with stable, experienced lenders specializing in funding accounting practice acquisitions, enabling many sellers to receive substantial cash at closing.
  • Complete confidentiality throughout the sales process to avoid prematurely alerting clients, staff, or your competitors. 

We understand selling your accounting practice is an important—and often sensitive—personal and professional milestone. We’ll listen to your circumstances and goals, and recommend an informed course of action. Contact us today at 1-888-NEW-CLIENTS (1-888-639-2543) for a complimentary, confidential initial consultation.


Todd Steinberg, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Todd Steinberg offers more than 20 years of experience emphasizing sales, marketing and business development in the industry of marketing accounting services. The scope of Todd’s experience has spanned virtually all aspects of the accounting practice marketing industry. A respected leader in the industry, his experience includes developing new marketing strategies, NCI program sales, integrating financial planning and payroll services into accounting practices, providing sales and marketing support to NCI’s 4,500+ clients, hiring and training of marketing personnel for accounting firms nationwide and speaking at regional and national conferences as an authority on marketing accounting services.

His career includes leadership roles such as serving as the National Seminar Director at NCI’s Practice Development Seminar, Director of NCI’s Practice Development Coaching program and Director of Monitoring and Support. He is also responsible for leading NCI’s accounting practice sales division and has been personally involved in the sale of over 125 firms nationwide. Todd is Series 7, 66, Life, Accident & Health Licensed. In his spare time he enjoys working out and spending time with his wife Jessica and three young children Sydney, Ben & Brooklyn.

We’ll Help You Find That Practice You’ve Been Searching For

We know and understand the difficulties of finding a good, quality practice in a specific area and price range. Having put together hundreds of buyers and sellers over the years, we understand the process better than most and we have the resources a typical accountant doesn’t possess to locate a practice for sale in their desired area. That’s why NCI offers our Finders Keepers program. Remember the saying from when you were a kid “finders keepers, losers weepers?” We’ll be your “finder” and when we locate the practice of your dreams, it’ll definitely be a “keeper.”

Under this program, NCI will undertake an intensive search using our giant database and long client list, both developed over 30 years in business, to locate a practice for you. We’ll personally call clients in your target area and speak to them about the possibility of selling their firm. We’ll let them know we have a qualified buyer who has a strong interest in purchasing a local practice. Many of our clients are now at, or reaching retirement age so these calls have proven to yield the desired results you are seeking. Plus, we’ll email all firms in our database informing them we have a qualified buyer looking for a practice in their market, as well as run articles in New Client News, our e-newsletter that reaches thousands of firms every month. All you have to do is pay a small, upfront fee and sit back, relax and wait for the results. Once we locate a seller, receive the listing to market their firm and you close on your new practice, the fee you paid NCI is refunded back to you. It’s a win-win situation for all concerned. For more details and to sign up, call us today at 1-888-639-2543 to get started.

Sincerely,

Bruce J. Clark, CEO
Author, NCI Effect, Explosive Client Growth Plan for Accountants and CPAs
Beyond the NCI Effect, Sales Strategies That Matter to Grow an Accounting Practice

http://www.ncieffect.com

PS. Right now through September 15th is the optimal time to have us conduct a search as most firms are not that busy and have the time to consider an offer to purchase. It also allows time to close the sale before the 2017 tax season begins, so if this is what you’re looking for, do not hesitate on making your dream a reality.

 

Considering Selling Your Practice?

Whether it is because of retirement, another business interest or simply a change of pace, NCI can help you successfully sell one of your most valued assets. Our proven record of success, built over the past 25+ years building and selling accounting firms, will be invaluable to you during this vital process. We work exclusively with accounting professionals to aid them in the development of their firms through our guaranteed practice development programs. Since we work with and talk to thousands of accountants nationwide each year we found ourselves in a natural position to bring buyers and sellers together. Working exclusively with accountants gives us the intricate knowledge and competitive edge necessary to facilitate a smooth and successful transition, where most other business brokers may treat your practice like any other business sale rather than the highly specialized transaction that it is. This can create real problems for you as a seller.

Due to the fact that our business has other revenue streams, our fee is normally a lot less than what most other brokers would charge you. Plus if you are already an NCI client, you will receive a discount off of your sale price. If you are a seminar client (Plan 1) then you will receive half a percent off our standard commission rate. If you are a Plan 2 client, you will save a full one percent of the standard commission rate. With transactions of this magnitude, this can represent very significant savings!  

Some of the key benefits of our service include:

  • Protect your privacy by concealing your identity and that of your practice.
  • Qualify buyers financially so you are only meeting with real potential buyers.
  • Provide financing sources to cash you out at closing. We work with several lenders to get you as much money at closing as possible.
  • Handle all negotiations. You won’t ever have to argue price, terms, guarantees, etc.
  • Provide first drafts of contracts, LOIs, and transition letters to help minimize your legal fees.
  • Make proven suggestions to facilitate a smooth transition between you and the new owner. This helps prevent client attrition.
  • Market your practice via our website and company newsletter plus our huge in-house database with targeted email blasts.
  • Provide the purchaser of your practice with NCI’s three day Practice Development Seminar. This seminar comes with an annual billing guaranteed increase of $50,000 and is designed to help the new owner grow the firm.

To get started contact Todd Steinberg at 1-888-NEW-CLIENTS (1-888-639-2543) for a no cost valuation of your firm and visit the practice sales portion of our website for additional information. If you are looking to buy a practice take a look at the listings we currently have available for purchase. If you see something that fits your needs don’t hesitate, it’s a seller’s market and they don’t stay available for long!

Dos and Don’ts of Selling an Accounting Practice

Protect your Confidentiality

The prospective buyer should never know who the seller is until they are pre-qualified. Requiring a personal financial statement and a confidentiality agreement is a must.

Proper Valuation

Speak with industry experts and do your homework to see what recent practices in your area has sold for. There are many elements that go into valuing a practice. They include: Location, Profit Margin, Client Mix, Transition Assistance, Employees, Web Site, Equipment, and Specialty or Niche Markets.

Proper Marketing

Expert guidance is very helpful in this area. Only an expert can identify strong selling points for your practice. You must be aware of what makes a practice attractive to a prospective buyer. Having a nationally recognized name and trusted organization is a big plus for the firm representing you in this transaction.

Finding Buyers

This is very difficult to do on your own. An all out effort is needed including advertising in national trade journals, state society publications and websites, direct mail, phone calls, web listing, etc.

You must have a network of prospects ready to talk with. Keep in mind you do not want to give out to many details up initially until you have had a chance to qualify the buyers.

Qualifying Buyers

You should obtain a personal financial statement and in some cases a credit report if they are financing the transaction. Also, an in depth interview should be conducted to see if the buyer is a good fit for the clients.

Negotiations

Price is important but so are the terms! A third party is helpful here so that you never have to argue price or terms with a potential buyer. You do not want to get the relationship off on the wrong foot with a buyer by having disagreements on various issues.

Financing Assistance

Having access to financing sources is very important. Most buyers will need to secure financing if you are looking for a mostly cash deal. Local banks can work but more often than not lenders specializing in the funding of accounting practice sales are needed.

Closing and Transition

Experience here is important to maximize client retention. You must make the transaction look more like a merger than an acquisition. Client transition concerns and a variety of other issues will come up here. Make sure you have professional Agreement of Sale and form letters to be sent out to the client base to introduce the new owners.

What to Avoid When Selling Your Practice - Top Ten Mistakes Made By Sellers

1- Not Knowing What the Practice Should Sell For:

Although the marketplace ultimately determines the final price, an owner needs to know what the approximate price his or her business is prior to placing the business on the market. Before making the decision to sell, owners should work with someone qualified to place a price on their company.

2- Not Preparing the Practice for Sale:

Prior to exposing a business to the marketplace, preparation is necessary. Anything that a potential purchaser might want to see should be up-to-date, accurate and available for review. Likewise, financial and legal affairs should be current. Being prepared helps to maintain the momentum of the deal, places the business in a favorable light, and brings confidence in the business.

3- Not Being Able to See The Practice Through The Eyes of the Buyer:

Although it is tempting to look at one's own business in only the most favorable light, it is very important to recognize the deficiencies of the business, and address them, in order to alleviate any buyer concerns. In fact, it is suggested that problem areas should be brought up in the very beginning of the selling process, along with possible solutions.

4- Not Really Knowing the Buyer:

The better you know the buyer, the smoother the transaction. By knowing the buyers, their motives, their interests, and their backgrounds, the better equipped a seller is to make informed decisions about whether they are the right people to operate the business.

5- Trying to Sell the Practice to a Buyer Who Doesn't Want to Buy:

There are usually many more potential buyers than there are businesses for sale. The question is--how serious are they? Wasting time on those who aren't serious about purchasing a practice takes away valuable time from those buyers who really want to buy.

6- Being Your Own Worst Enemy:

Many firm owners feel that no one knows their practice like they do. They think they can do a deal themselves, without any help. As the old saying goes: "The attorney who represents himself has a fool for a client." The same could be said for the business owner who thinks he can sell his or her own business. Not using outside advisors, such as a professional business broker, is a serious mistake that could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars.

7- Not Understanding the Structure of the Deal:

The real crux of the deal is how it is structured. Consider the negotiating axiom "You can name the price if I can name the terms." The terms and conditions are important. A seller may be ecstatic about price only to find that the devil is in the details.

8- Not Being Able to Walk Away From the Deal:

Too many sellers get so involved in putting the deal together that they don't see the big picture. Since they have invested a lot of time and effort, and probably expenses, it's often difficult for them to see if the deal isn't a good one. If the deal isn't right, and can't be fixed, there is no other choice than to walk away. It's much better not to do a deal than to do a bad one.

9- Waiting Too Long to Sell:

Too many practioners wait until the last minute to decide to sell their practices. They wait until business is down, or they are completely burned out, or their partnership has soured completely. The time to sell is BEFORE emergencies happen-when the business is still good. The old adage is: a business owner should think about and plan the eventual sale after it is purchased.

10- Changing Your Mind:

If there is even a speck of doubt about selling the practice, don't begin the process. Seller's remorse can arise from many things- realizing that you will now have nothing to do every day, an acquaintance saying the price is too low, etc. If it is a good deal from the beginning, don't let outsiders or self-doubt influence the sale.

Knowing the ins and outs of practice sales is very crucial to putting together a successful transaction. The bottom line is a professional is the only one who can help you avoid all of the pitfalls along the way. Rely on the experts and contact us here at New Clients Inc. for more information at 1-800-338-0778 ext. 15.


Todd Steinberg, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Todd Steinberg offers more than 20 years of experience emphasizing sales, marketing and business development in the industry of marketing accounting services. The scope of Todd’s experience has spanned virtually all aspects of the accounting practice marketing industry. A respected leader in the industry, his experience includes developing new marketing strategies, NCI program sales, integrating financial planning and payroll services into accounting practices, providing sales and marketing support to NCI’s 4,500+ clients, hiring and training of marketing personnel for accounting firms nationwide and speaking at regional and national conferences as an authority on marketing accounting services. His career includes leadership roles such as serving as the National Seminar Director at NCI’s Practice Development Seminar, Director of NCI’s Practice Development Coaching program and Director of Monitoring and Support. He is also responsible for leading NCI’s accounting practice sales division and has been personally involved in the sale of over 125 firms nationwide. Todd is Series 7, 66, Life, Accident & Health Licensed. In his spare time he enjoys working out and spending time with his wife Jessica and three young children Sydney, Ben & Brooklyn.

Seller Response (aka “Deal Motivation”)

Most accounting practice buyers have been burnt in the past by “wannabe” business sellers. Telltale signs for such sellers include a hesitation to accept an offer even after several legitimate practice buyers have been introduced, referring all matters to the buyer’s attorney, or being unable or unwilling to provide the latest financial information. In other words, consciously or unconsciously, the seller is doing everything to delay the deal or make it impossible. Those looking to buy a practice are very sensitive to such behavior and they do not want to spend up to $5,000 in legal fees for due diligence, and months of their own time, with a seller who ultimately does not want to move forward with a transaction. Thus, it’s imperative for the seller to be responsive and react immediately to buyer requests.

Professional Business Presentation

To keep interest levels high the seller needs to include tax-return-based financial information, a detailed asset listing, growth projections, along with current and projected EBITDA and true Sellers Discretionary Cash Flow (SDCF) – including all the personal expenses that an owner runs through the business (owner perks) as well as an outline on how the business operates.

For example, what is the company’s competitive advantage? How does the company attract clients? Are revenue streams recurring? Which contractual arrangements exist? What kinds of personnel are in place? These are just a few topics that needs to be addressed if you’re entering the process of buying a practice or selling one.

Growth Perspectives

Without exception, all buyers want to see that a practice has potential for growth.  Therefore a seller needs to outline what growth paths exist, what plan needs to be implemented, and what capital infusion such a plan requires.  The current business owner, being intimately familiar with the business, is the most qualified individual to provide guidance for this growth especially if you’re an NCI client that has utilized one of our marketing program.

Without a credible company growth plan, a successful sale is very unlikely.  Buyers are motivated by a positive cash flow and good company growth projections, and they need to see them documented.

Management Continuity

Almost all buyers want to see continuity in how a practice is managed. The very first question typically is: who will stay and who will go?

Buyers seek continuity, and studies have shown that in less than five percent of mid-market transactions will a buyer make any significant personnel changes in the first 12 months of ownership. The management team is an important part of the “goodwill” for which the buyer paid at the closing table. It would not be smart to destroy such goodwill.

Improper Legal Representation or Over Lawyering

Another major concern for practice buyers and sellers is for the seller to have proper legal representation. Most attorneys do not have experience in the sale of an accounting practice. This situation nearly always results in delaying the process or killing a deal outright. Try and work with legal counsel that’s has experience in this area of law. Or ask NCI about certain aspects of the deal and what is common when structuring the legal agreement for selling or buying a practice. While we can’t offer legal advice we can offer the experience of having represented hundreds of sellers over the past 25 years. We will also offer sample agreements of sale and Letters of Intent (LOI) to help facilitate the process and lower your legal costs.

In summary, if a seller is sensitive to the five major concerns outlined above and addresses them accordingly, a seller’s offer will attract more buyers to their practice, generate appropriate dialogue, and lead to a successful sale.

Interested in buying or selling a practice?  Call 1-888-New Clients, (639-2543) for a no obligation evaluation of your firms worth.

Outstanding Practice for Sale in Monterey, CA

Ready to work, play and thrive in one of the most beautiful places in the U.S.? We have an outstanding opportunity to acquire this long established, very profitable CPA firm which grosses over 1.4 million per year. Net margins of $543,887 make this a prime catch for the CPA who possesses the professional and financial resources necessary to make this acquisition. An outstanding office location and well trained staff round out the equation. Both partners are willing to stay on for an extended period of time ensuring the transition is smooth sailing. Speaking of sailing, Monterey Bay is a premiere sailing spot with average year round temperatures in the mid-seventies perfect weather for just about any outdoor activity. And with the mountains just a few hours’ drive you have every imaginable fun activity at your beck and call.

One thing you absolutely don’t want to do is call too late and miss out on a superb practice in a fabulous location. Contact me today at 888-New-Clients (639-2543) or click here for a detailed overview of this firm.

Bruce Clark, CEO Author, NCI Effect, Explosive Client Growth Plan for Accountants and CPAswww.NCIEffect.com

Top Ten Mistakes Made By Sellers

1. Not Knowing What the Practice Should Sell For:

Although the marketplace ultimately determines the final price, an owner needs to know the approximate price of his or her business prior to placing the business on the market. Before making the decision to sell, owners should work with someone qualified and experienced to place a price on their practice.

2. Not Preparing the Practice for Sale:

Prior to exposing a business to the marketplace, preparation is necessary. Anything that a potential purchaser might want to see should be up-to-date, accurate and available for review. Likewise, financial and legal affairs should be current. Being prepared helps to maintain the momentum of the deal, places the business in a favorable light, and brings confidence in the business.

3. Not Being Able to See the Practice Through the Eyes of the Buyer:

Although it is tempting to look at one's own business in only the most favorable light, it is very important to recognize the deficiencies of the business, and address them, in order to alleviate any buyer concerns. In fact, it is suggested that problem areas should be brought up in the very beginning of the selling process, along with possible solutions.

4. Not Really Knowing the Buyer:

The better you know the buyer, the smoother the transaction. By knowing the buyers, their motives, their interests, and their backgrounds, the seller is much better equipped to make informed decisions about whether they are the right people to operate the business.

5. Trying to Sell the Practice to a Buyer Who Doesn't Want to Buy or Can’t Afford To:

There are usually many more potential buyers than there are businesses for sale. The question is--how serious are they and are they financially qualified? Wasting time on those who aren't serious about purchasing a practice takes away valuable time from those buyers who really want to buy and have the ability to complete a sale.

6. Being Your Own Worst Enemy:

Many firm owners feel that no one knows their practice like they do. They think they can do a deal themselves, without any help. As the old saying goes: "The attorney who represents himself has a fool for a client." The same could be said for the business owner who thinks he can sell his or her own business. Not using outside advisors, such as a professional practice broker, is a serious mistake.

7. Not Understanding the Structure of the Deal:

The real crux of the deal is how it is structured. Consider the negotiating axiom "You can name the price if I can name the terms." The terms and conditions are important. A seller may be ecstatic about price only to find that the devil is in the details.

8. Not Being Able to Walk Away From the Deal:

Too many sellers get so involved in putting the deal together that they don't see the big picture. Since they have invested a lot of time and effort, and probably expenses, it's often difficult for them to see if the deal isn't a good one. If the deal isn't right, and can't be fixed, there is no other choice than to walk away. It's much better not to do a deal than to do a bad one.

9. Waiting Too Long to Sell:

Too many accountants wait until it’s too late to decide to sell their practices. They wait until business is down, or they are completely burned out, or their partnership has soured completely. Health issues or the death of the owner can diminish value or destroy the ability to sell. The time to sell is BEFORE emergencies happen-when the business is still in good shape.

10. Changing Your Mind:

If there is even a speck of doubt about selling the practice, don't begin the process. Seller's remorse can arise from many things- realizing that you will now have nothing to do every day, an acquaintance saying the price is too low, etc. If it is a good deal from the beginning, don't let outsiders or self-doubt influence the sale.

If you are considering selling your practice now that tax season is over please contact Todd Steinberg for a no cost, no obligation assessment of your firm’s worth along with your options for selling. We are offering a discount off of our standard performance fee for listings received prior to June 1, 2015.


Todd Steinberg, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Todd Steinberg
Todd Steinberg

Todd Steinberg offers more than 20 years of experience emphasizing sales, marketing and business development in the industry of marketing accounting services. The scope of Todd’s experience has spanned virtually all aspects of the accounting practice marketing industry. A respected leader in the industry, his experience includes developing new marketing strategies, NCI program sales, integrating financial planning and payroll services into accounting practices, providing sales and marketing support to NCI’s 4,500+ clients, hiring and training of marketing personnel for accounting firms nationwide and speaking at regional and national conferences as an authority on marketing accounting services.

His career includes leadership roles such as serving as the National Seminar Director at NCI’s Practice Development Seminar, Director of NCI’s Practice Development Coaching program and Director of Monitoring and Support. He is also responsible for leading NCI’s accounting practice sales division and has been personally involved in the sale of over 125 firms nationwide. Todd is Series 7, 66, Life, Accident & Health Licensed. In his spare time he enjoys working out and spending time with his wife Jessica and three young children Sydney, Ben & Brooklyn.

You’ve Decided to Buy a Firm, Now What?

Here are some tips to ensure the practice you purchase does not disappear before your very eyes!Risk Number One:Employees While client retention is overrated as a risk factor, employee risk can be a real concern. Something you should do before thinking about going to see a single client is to meet with and take care of your new employees. They are going to want reassurance about their jobs and future and will look to you to provide it. You also have to be concerned about them becoming your competition.

There are ways to minimize this risk. One way to determine the intentions of a key employee is to require the employee to sign a no solicitation agreement prior to closing on the sale of the business. This protects you in most states from having one or more team members leave and start soliciting your clients. If that key person refuses, it could be a sign of intentions and things to come.

Risk Number Two: Do They Have One Major Client?

I met with a CPA many years ago who was interested in our marketing services. When I ask him what prompted him to contact us he stated “I’m losing one of my biggest clients.” Further questions unveiled that this one client represented 50% of his current practice. When buying, always look at how many large clients make up a firm as this could be a huge problem if one or two decide they don’t like the way you part your hair and leave after the sale.

Risk Number Three: Not Taking the Bull by the Horns

Just because you paid someone for their client list does not ensure those clients are going to stay. You must be proactive in reaching out to your new clients and have in place a transition that includes the seller introducing you.

There should be no assumption made that the clients are yours until you have sold yourself and your willingness and ability to serve their needs. This takes a huge effort by the buyer to make contact with all clients of the acquired practice as soon after closing as possible. The other important point is to make as few changes as possible. People generally do not like change and a sure way to have clients heading for the door is to change fees, personnel, location etc. Here at NCI, we advise our buyers not to make any changes for at least the first 6 months. This gives clients time to get to know and trust you which is paramount in any client/accountant relationship.


Bruce J. Clark, CEO Author, NCI Effect, Explosive Client Growth Plan for Accountants and CPAs www.ncieffect.com

Partnering Up for a Smooth Transition to a Multi-Million Dollar Retirement

Success Story: Frank Gutta, CPA, Sunrise, FL

Retirement is a really important consideration that not enough people take into account early enough to matter. One needs to be prepared to live the comfortable life that they have become accustomed to once their ability to earn a living is diminished. In this month’s interview, I had the opportunity to speak with a man who is taking the right path to retirement and in the process, is making sure that the business and client base he has built up through hard work is going to be preserved and well taken care of once he rides off into the sunset.

That man is Frank Gutta, who has the distinction of attending NCI’s first Practice Development Seminar in 1987. He has managed to build a million-dollar accounting practice in the Florida market with help from NCI and our marketing programs. Frank recently turned 60 and has been thinking about retirement. He decided that he wanted to bring in a young, ambitious CPA to groom for takeover during a five-year transition period. Frank came to NCI for help in facilitating this buy-in because, after working with NCI on and off for over two decades, he knew that he could trust Bruce Clark with this incredibly important task. Within one month, he had the perfect fit for the position in place, along with a great financial deal that generated 80% of the cash up front for Frank. Read on to learn the details of this buy-in and also to get time-tested advice from a proven long-term success.

Frank, please tell me about your accounting background that led you into owning your own practice?

I graduated in 1974 and then went to work in an accounting firm. After that, I moved to South Florida and started working with Seidman BDO from about 1982 to 1986. In January of 1986, I started my own practice. I always wanted to be my own boss and do my own thing. I worked for a national CPA firm and I just didn’t like the politics. They also shunned small-business accounting and were focused on larger accounts and I enjoyed working with the “mom and pop” small-business owners. The national firm I worked for didn’t cater to those types of clients; they basically just got rid of them. So I thought: that’s a nice niche that I can get into, and I left and started my own practice.

Can you tell me about your experience with NCI over the years? What prompted you to go to NCI in the first place?

In 1987, I got a mailer from a company called Clients Unlimited with a picture of an accountant sitting by a phone waiting for new clients to call in. The phone was covered in cobwebs.

That’s right; New Clients, Inc. was originally called Clients Unlimited. That ad is one of my father’s favorites. He references it often.

When I called I spoke to your dad, he suggested I attend the Plan 1 Practice Development Seminar in New Jersey. At that time I was just starting out and didn’t have much money so I chose to attend the seminar. Then I hired an appointment setter and I did the selling myself and basically it was the best thing I ever did. I knew nothing about sales and I learned a lot on that topic at the seminar: about how to close deals and things like that. So it was very helpful.

Were you struggling to get accounts when you started the business?

Yes, before I went to the seminar I tried various things. I put an ad for my services in the paper. I went to various networking events to try and solicit business and like a typical accountant, I didn’t know how to sell myself. I would say, “Do you need an accountant? Do you need anyone to do your taxes?” [Laughs.] So I learned a lot from the seminar because I just didn’t know how to effectively sell my services back then.

So you used the NCI training to grow your business?

Yes, I picked up several new accounts. I had been in an executive suite when I got started and in 1988 I was able to move into a shared office with an attorney, which was helpful. At that point, I had an assistant who did bookkeeping and answered the phone. The attorney and I would also refer business to one another.

You eventually upgraded to a Plan 2 program, correct?

Yes, I did.  NCI hired and trained a salesman and two appointment setters for me and that brought me additional business and worked out well.

What was your biggest concern before deciding to attend the seminar?

When I did the first one, I didn’t have much cash but I didn’t have much concern. I thought it was a reasonably priced seminar, I just couldn’t afford the Plan 2 at that time, otherwise I would have done it then.

That makes sense. The programs are really designed to work that way. Not everyone can afford the Plan 2 program but the idea is that they can attend the seminar and use that knowledge to grow to a point where they can afford to upgrade into a Plan 2, as you did. And today we have financing via Bank Of America that allows someone to get into the program with zero dollars down.

What were some of your challenges running the program?

I think that sometimes when you are cold calling you will come across people who are very resistant or very price conscious. It’s a more difficult sale to make but it’s a numbers game and it’s another method of constantly having a stream of clients coming into the firm.

That’s the whole goal. I also think that our clients often find and maybe you can attest to this that by doing constant marketing and putting the name of the firm out into the public arena a bit, it helps you in less tangible ways, like building that market presence and recognition. Just getting your name out is so important and without a big marketing and advertising budget, the best and most cost-effective way to achieve that is to pick up the phone and reach out.

I also found that it’s not one magic rule. You have to engage in a variety of marketing approaches.

Absolutely, you have to be diverse in your approach and you have to stay active with your marketing. We make that a point in our marketing program. It’s not just about the telephone; there is also email marketing, website marketing, search engine optimization, etc., that we have built into the program to keep up with current marketing trends that work.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering investing in an NCI marketing program?

Most accountants go to accounting school and they know nothing about sales. That was the huge difference maker for me after attending the seminar. I also think that we, as accountants, leave a lot of money on the table. There are a lot of additional services that we can provide and don’t. If you’re starting out and maybe coming from a bigger firm and you think that bookkeeping or payroll services are beneath you, think again. There are so many accountants out there making a fortune on that type of work. Just look at ADP, they focus exclusively on payroll and do an outrageous amount of business.

Do you have any advice for someone running the program?

I think the key thing I learned from Bruce is that if you have salesperson who is not producing, there is obviously something wrong. I was a little too easy about that and I would just let the salesperson hang around, despite their not generating enough results. The same goes for the appointment setters.

Another thing I want to mention is that I’ve got a tax manager and six other staff members. Most of the work is done by the staff. I’ve put systems and processes in place where the practice could essentially run without me there all the time. This is unlike most CPAs, who want to do everything themselves, but there are only so many hours in the day.

That’s very true. What if you hadn’t taken those precautions and something were to happen to you? You could lose everything very quickly, so that is something we advocate to our clients. Don’t make the whole firm rely on you in order to operate.

In sales and marketing, at the end of the day, it is about results. We tell our clients this all the time. It’s not easy to make a change, it’s not easy to fire someone or go through the hiring process again, but the results are paramount. If the results aren’t there you cannot justify the ongoing investment into the marketing.

NCI had recently helped you to find a partner for your firm. You were looking for someone to buy into your practice. Can you tell me about that process?

Last year I turned 60 and I always tell my clients about planning the transition of their business when they retire and not to wait until the last minute to figure that out. So I was thinking about that last year and I decided that the best way to go about it was to find someone who could buy into my practice. Then I can work with him for several years, have him get to know the clients and make it a smooth transition. Eventually, I’ll slow down and work less and then retire. I think 65 would be a good age to retire so that gives me five years to develop a good transition. So I called Bruce to get help in finding a good partner. Within a matter of days Bruce provided me with around 10 people who were interested.

Impressive, and this was no small buy-in.

Yeah; it’s a million dollar practice. So we narrowed the list down to three people who were very interested and had potential. Bruce was also very good personality-wise. I’ve known Bruce for many years and he knows me and my personality and he helped out with finding the type of person that would be a good fit for me. I think that worked out very well. So I met with a few people and ultimately selected a young CPA in his 30s who was looking to acquire a practice. We hit it off very well. It’s been excellent so far.

That’s excellent, it sounds like a great situation for all involved. When did this take place?

The new partner joined the firm effective January 1st of this year. I called Bruce in October and we closed on December 28th.

So it’s been about four months now. I know it’s not easy to sell a practice when you have relationships with your clients. This sounds like a really great way of doing it so that everyone is well taken care of and has time for the various adjustments that go along with that.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about NCI, the marketing programs, your relationship with Bruce over the years, and the recent partnership that he facilitated for you?

I’ve known Bruce for a long time. He’s a man of integrity and a man of his word and he’s always done right by me. He knows a lot of people in this business. There are other professional practice sales brokers who don’t know half the people Bruce does in this industry. A lot of them tell me that they know all these people, but they really don’t. Whereas with Bruce I made one phone call to him and within a week he had 10 people lined up. Plus he was able to provide financing for a big chunk of the deal. The bank Bruce works with, Bank of America, financed 70% with the buyer putting down 10% and the note was for the remaining 20%. I got 80% of funds up front.

That’s incredible for a practice that size. I’m sure you were happy.

I was very happy. It worked out very, very well. I also want to say that we worked with Justin Shafer at Bank of America.  He was incredible and did an excellent job, as well.

Another thing I’d like to point out is that I think some people get discouraged because they are spending all this money on the marketing program. Even if the program works out slower than expected it still pays for itself. Say in the first year you spend $100,000 total on all of your marketing and you only got $60,000 worth of revenue. That $60,000 is recurring and you’re going to get referrals from that and those clients are going to grow, too. Even with a worst-case scenario where you break even after two years, everything after that is all gravy. People need to look at it that way.

That’s a good point. Sometimes people’s expectations get overblown. The program works, that has been proven consistently over the past 27 years but it requires hard work. Marketing takes time, effort and money to be successful. If you have a proven system in place, it does make it much easier in the long run, however.

Yes, and I think another thing that gets overlooked is, okay you’ve got the client, now you have to take care of the client and give them great service. That will also get you referrals. If your service is poor, you will lose the potential referral and the client.

That’s another great point. I also hear some salespeople who have to deal with this issue. They bring in clients and the work doesn’t get done in a timely manner and the CSR is left trying to explain what is going on to the new client. What kind of impression is that to start a business relationship on? Not a good one. That’s all I have for you today, Frank. We here at NCI certainly appreciate your time on the phone today and also your kind words and good advice. Good luck with your new partnership and eventual retirement and, as always, if we can be of further assistance, please call.


Chris Clark is the oldest son of New Clients Inc. founder and CEO Bruce Clark. He has worked as a Senior Account Executive at NCI for the past four years. During that time he has presented at the Practice Development Seminar on Internet and E-mail marketing and he also plays the prospective client during the seminar role play sessions. Chris also edits and contributes to the NCI newsletter, New Client News.