Barry Lambert: when is it the right time to sell?
There are many factors that practice owners should weigh up in making the decision to sell. From age and market trends, through to issues such as ill health or a loss of passion for the business, it is important that owners take the time to carefully weigh up their motivations for selling.
I have always been passionate about the Count business; I didn’t establish and build it with a view to selling. I’ve received many unsolicited approaches over the years, but I never really considered any of them seriously. Stockbrokers and friendly societies first came knocking, followed by BT, MLC, Westpac, AMP, ING and Challenger.
When Commonwealth Bank – my first employer – made their offer, however, it was simply too good to refuse at that time. Combined with my age (I recently turned 66) and stage in life, with 3 children and 11 grandchildren to spend more time with – selling Count was an easy decision for me.
Market and regulatory uncertainty also played a role in my decision to sell. Between FoFA and the economic uncertainty of recent times, Commonwealth Bank’s unexpected offer came at an opportune time and the Directors and Shareholders thought it was a good price for shareholders.
I built Count as an independent accounting-based business, and I am confident that’s how it will remain. I used to work for Commonwealth Bank and I believe they have an ethical approach to doing business, and that has been my experience with the Count transaction. Their personal word to me was that they would keep Count separate from their other divisions, as they recognised a professional accounting-based network needed an independent approach.
The reality is Count is simply a service provider and the accountants and advisers we work with own their businesses and the relationship with their clients. The minute we do something that’s not in their best interest they will walk, so we need to keep those relationships strong and professional.
So there are a range of factors to take into consideration when selling. It’s a bit like when someone retires from the Australian cricket time; they always say “now is the time” – it just happened. You could be prescriptive and analytical about it and try to pick the top of the market, but the right time to sell is when it’s right for you. There is no point dying on the job!
Meet Barry Lambert and over 30 other industry experts at our No More Practice Live Event on 9 August.
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