Art of Accounting: The Client Doesn’t Always Know If They Really Want to Sell

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IMGCAP(1)]We all have clients who wonder what their business is worth and sometimes imagine getting away from it all.

Some even sell, but many more talk about starting the process but are not really committed to selling.

Selling is a life-changing event. It involves owners giving up their creation. It forces a realization of a transition to the next phase of life—one where they will be less active, less pertinent and older—and puts them in a position of having less income coming in.

More often than one might imagine, I am asked to help a client sell their business. I wrote a blog explaining our role so I won’t repeat that here. However, before I do anything, I try to determine how serious the client is and what they really want to do and want for themselves.

I have found that what clients say they want to do in this regard is not always what they want. They could be venting, thinking out loud, desiring a suggestion, looking for leadership or a coach in the process, or just having a bad day or week that makes them feel like they want to pack it all in. Experience has provided me with skills, patience and a quiet, prodding ability to lead clients toward articulating their real thoughts.

What clients want to do is their prerogative. My job is to help them achieve what they want—what they really want. Proper guiding can help the client become clearer in understanding themselves and what they want to do. This takes time and cost (I do not work for free). The right client can be helped immensely. Oftentimes they decide to do nothing, but they are stronger once they that understanding. And when they make the decision to sell, I am there to lead them through the process and then afterwards into the next stage of their life.

This is what accountants do—help clients make important decisions and provide a ways and means of proceeding.

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner emeritus at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz (published by CPATrendlines) and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition” (published by the AICPA). Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or

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