All posts by Helen Capell


Vicky Boulton runs her own marketing consultancy and has been invited by Nicola Draper to write a blog for the website. Vicky has done work for Draper Hinks and has helped to bring in a substantial amount of new business. She has submitted the following contribution:-

If you want to sell your accountancy practice within the next 2- 3 years, then the only realistic way to guarantee you will get paid more for your practice is to increase the amount of fees that you are going to sell. Most practices grow by word of mouth and personal recommendation. Organic growth is ideal but if you want to increase your fees significantly within a short space of time, then you need a comprehensive marketing strategy to do this.
Stand out from the crowd
Accountancy firms today face a more complex and crowded marketplace than ever before. The combination of increased competition, commoditised services, and more demanding clients has placed new strains on your industry. But perhaps the biggest stumbling block to increasing accountancy fees is the fact that essentially all accountancy firms provide the same thing, so looking for areas of differentiation via service delivery and/or offering niche services can often be the only way to stand out from the crowd.
Financial solutions
Because accountancy is about developing long-term rewarding relationships and building trust, your marketing efforts need to be focused on clients, their needs and lifestyles and of course the benefits that they will get. Remember, what you are really selling is two-fold.
1. financial solutions (factual)
2. peace of mind (emotional)

So it’s essential to get your clients and prospective clients to acknowledge that you will be able to listen, understand and help them towards achieving peace of mine by accessing your bespoke financial solution.
Become more profitable
Like any marketing, this whole process takes time, effort and resources – unfortunately there are no guaranteed promises of new business from day one. Marketing isn’t a quick fix, but done right, it can be a very profitable way to grow your fees.
By clever use of the following, you will be able to build your business successfully, whilst at the same time become known for delivering a valuable and trusted service that is easy to refer.
• Planning
• Targeting
• Regular communications
• Message consistency
• Engaging content
• Utilisation of multiple channels i.e. direct mail, emarketing, telesales, advertising, PR and networking

I would like to thank Vicky Boulton for her contribution to our Blog. If you want to know more about how to successfully market your practice so that you can increase your fees, contact Vicky Boulton at Fuel Marketing on 07766 566690 or email vicky@fuelmarketing

Draper Hinks works with accountants that want to sell accountancy fees or buy accountancy fees. We are business brokers for accountants and deal with no other types of business, so if you are thinking of selling your accountancy practice, then please contact us on 01788 816440 or email us at



Nicola Draper of Draper Hinks has sold well over 130 accountancy practices, so has come across some interesting reasons why a vendor wants to sell their accountancy practice.  These reasons are not listed in any specific order.

Reason No 1 – Retirement

The most common reason given for selling an accountancy practice is where the vendor wants to retire.  They have got to a point where they say “it is not the profession I joined, it has changed so much since when I first started” or “I can’t be doing with compliance any more” or “With RTI and now auto enrolment, what will the next thing be?”  The one thing that is a constant with accountancy is that it is always changing, yes this sounds like an oxymoron but it is very true.

I spoke to one potential vendor who said to me recently “I need to sell soon because my heart is not in it any more and I want to sell before my clients start to suspect that I do not enjoy it and leave.”  He had seen the problem and was tackling it by setting in motion the sale of his accountancy practice.

Reason No 2 – Ill health

It could be argued that some vendors leave it too late to sell their accountancy practice, especially when they are prompted to do so by the onset of ill health.  Ill health can range from a slight incapacity where a vendor says “I would like to sell my accountancy practice because I am getting too tired at the end of the working day” to a case last year where a vendor phoned and asked if we could sell his accountancy practice because he “had only three months left to live” having been diagnosed with a very virulent form of cancer that was terminal and had spread throughout his body.

We have sold accountancy practices for vendors that have had heart attacks – in one case the vendor phoned to say “I have to sell my practice because my doctor says if I don’t I will die.”  He had had a heart attack and the doctor was worried about his stress levels.  The vendor had been saying he would take it easy, but left it too long and then had to sell due to circumstances.

We have sold accountancy practices for vendors that have had strokes and not been able to get to the office and work. One vendor had MS and had to have a member of staff help him up the stairs to his first floor office by placing his feet on each stair and guiding him up to his office.  Another vendor contacted us and he said he had breast cancer and he needed to sell quickly, another had a brain tumour and so the list goes on.  We can never be sure how long we will be healthy for but one thing we do know, we stop taking it for granted when we don’t have it any more.

Reason No 3 – Bereavement

I had a phone call one Tuesday morning and was asked if I could sell an accountancy practice.  The lady on the other end of the phone was totally focussed, easy to understand and to the point.  She said that she worked in the practice on a part time basis but it was her husband that ran the office, looked after the clients and all the staff. I asked if I could speak to him and she said that would not be possible because he had died in the night.  She told me she was in shock so was still able to deal with things on a totally logical and rational basis. We dealt with this situation as a matter of urgency and managed to get a suitable buyer for the accountancy practice and complete the deal in a very short space in time.  Both parties were very pleased with the result.

Reason No 4 – To do other things

It is not uncommon to come across a vendor that wants to sell their accountancy practice to follow another business interest or further training.  One vendor left and set up his own marketing firm that works with accountants helping them to be more effective and efficient and his business is now international, about to go global – so he is going from strength to strength.

Another vendor sold his accountancy practice to do an MBA.  He was a sole practitioner and grew his practice from a standing still with no clients to a turnover of over £350k in five years and felt he wanted to have another but different challenge.  Another vendor sold to become a horticulturalist.

Reason 5 – Move away

We have had a number of vendors that have sold up to move away.  Some have moved to places within the UK others have moved abroad.  One vendor moved from Bath to just north of Inverness, within in a week of selling his practice, where there was no mobile phone signal and limited broad band availability.  This made it nearly impossible for the purchaser of the accountancy practice to have any follow up hand over from the vendor post completion.

Another vendor moved to Bulgaria post sale and was rather economical with the truth when it came to saying what clients she was actually selling.  The buyer was not happy that the clients that were supposed to be on the list did not actually exist. Yes, due diligence was carried out, but the vendor carefully chose which client files the buyer of her accountancy practice could look at.  It is called due diligence for a reason – caveat emptor.

Reason No 6 – Split up of the partnership

It is not uncommon for partners in a partnership to have a falling out necessitating the sale of a practice. The problem then is who “owns” which clients.  If one of the partners runs the office and one partner brings in the business then coming up with a mutually acceptable way forward when selling the practice can be fraught with difficulties.  This is why it is very helpful to have a third party broker working with both parties.

Reason No 7 – Divorce

The two parties do not have to both be involved in the practice for the practice to be sold due to a divorce.  Often the side involved in running the practice will want the practice to be valued so that it can be taken into account when the assets are valued.  We worked with one vendor who was instructed by a judge in the divorce court to sell the practice, despite it being the only form of income for the vendor who was breadwinner in the marriage and he had dependent children living with him.  Cases like these can be quite emotional – especially where the vendor does not want to sell but is forced to by their soon to be ex.

Reason No 8 – Inability to do the work

There are two sides to this – one is where the vendor has been very successful and has grown the accountancy practice to a point they can no longer manage the size of the practice. One vendor was proud of the fact that he was always available to take the calls of his clients day and night. This was fine when his practice was very small but as it grew he was getting calls from 6am to 10pm 7 days a week.  This was unsustainable and not good for his health. Hence the sale.

Another case is where we had a vendor who started life as a bookkeeper and progressed to running an accountancy practice.  She was outside her comfort zone, was not capable of doing the work and was sinking in a sea of compliance.  Despite employing a chartered accountant to help on a day to day basis, the level of competency of the work was found to be severely lacking.  We found a buyer that took on the practice and they said there were some very good quality clients.  The amount paid for the practice was reduced quite considerably due to the poor quality of the work done by the vendor.

Reason No 9 – The most bizarre

We have had a few strange reasons for selling accountancy practices. One vendor was aged 63 and did not have a gap year after university so he decided he would buy a camper van and travel through all the countries in Europe for 18 months before deciding what he wanted to do.  One vendor wanted to sell his practice in order to become a chess Grand Master in Poland.  However, I think the most bizarre reason for the sale of an accountancy practice was the vendor in Kent who wanted to move the West Midlands to become an exorcist!  We meet all sorts when helping people to buy and sell accountancy practices.

If you want to talk about this, or any other matter please email me at quoting reference Blog 150805











Nicola Draper has invited a number of people to contribute to the Blog on the Draper Hinks website.  This contribution is from a solicitor based in a practice in Leicestershire.


A contract of sale will outline how much the purchase price is for the accountancy practice, when it will be paid and by what means. Usually, the purchase price for the fees for sale is agreed in a set of heads of terms and it could be a lump sum on completion but, often, there will be a deferred consideration clause with claw back provisions. These are designed to protect the potential buyer in the event the accountancy practice loses a particular amount of clients within an agreed time period from completion. These need to be carefully negotiated by the seller. The clause should go on to specify the details of any instalments and the dates they will be paid.



It is important to build in a confidentiality clause, as the information the potential buyer of the accountancy practice will come across throughout the course of its due diligence can be of a sensitive nature. It is imperative that the potential buyer (and his employees) do not disclose, or utilise, any information obtained throughout the transaction, other than for the purpose of assessing whether or not to proceed.



The position with employees also needs outlining carefully and specific employment advice will need to be taken so that the seller can be sure they are complying with the TUPE Regulations.


Client base

Accountants generally have a large database of clients. The seller of the accountancy practice can include provisions in the contract controlling how the client base is handled after completion. Selling an accountancy practice is very personal and it is important the reputation and goodwill of the business is protected, even after the sale. Both the seller of the accountancy practice and the potential buyer of the accountancy practice may want to build in an agreed handover period, so the transition takes place as smoothly as possible, limiting the disruption for clients.


Limitation on claims

Generally, these types of agreements contain various warranties. Warranties are contractual promises made by the seller of the accountancy practice about the state of the business at the date of completion and any breach of these could give rise to a claim for breach of contract. Limiting the claims reduces the seller’s exposure moving forwards by not leaving the time limit for claims open ended. Limiting the value of the claims also reduces the amount of low value claims, which neither party wants to be concerned with. It is also important that the potential buyer of the accountancy practice is made to mitigate their losses from any breach of contract.



It is imperative that both parties have certainty as to how any disputes will be settled in the future. They need to know what jurisdiction applies and which courts will have the power to determine any disputes.


Draper Hinks does not get involved in the drawing up of contracts nor does it advise on the legal aspects of the buying and selling of accountancy practices.  We are happy to recommend a firm of solicitors based in Leicestershire who are specialists in the area of buying and selling accountancy practices. There is so much to be taken into account prior to completing a deal, it is vital to work with someone who understands all the aspects, has recent relevant experience and can talk your language.  Draper Hinks have recommended this frim on many occasions because they are good, thorough and knowledgeable.

If you want to have some more information regarding this blog, or any other matter please email Nicola Draper at quoting reference Blog 150701


We have three USP’s that we are proud of and feel this makes us better than other Accountancy Brokers.

First – We hold meeting days for our vendors.

When a vendor approaches Draper Hinks and lets us know that they want to sell their accountancy practice or a tranche of their accountancy fees, there is a process that we undertake to make sure they are ready to sell. We get a lot of information from them about what it is they are selling, when they want to sell, what their practice looks like, what systems they use, what staff they have etc etc. All of this information forms the Profile of the accountancy practice.

Buying accountancy practiceWe then contact buyers in the area, who are looking to buy an accountancy practice, to find out if they are interested in buying this practice and we inform them as to when the meetings are being held with the vendor. At this point there is no mention of the vendor’s name or whereabouts of the accountancy practice. Anonymity is paramount at this point. The potential buyer has to sign our terms and conditions which includes a confidentiality clause. Once this has been received by us we release the profile information. If the buyer wants to have a meeting with the vendor we reserve a time slot on the meeting day. The vendor is inviting the buyers to the meeting day so that the vendor can interview all buyers to find out which buyer would be most suitable to take on the practice. It is a two way process and the buyer is at the same time, deciding if they would like to buy the practice.

We would aim for no more than four or five meetings at a meeting day. Each meeting is held on a one to one basis and is totally confidential. The vendor discusses the sale with each buyer and tells the buyer what they are looking for in the way of a deal. At the end of the day the buyer knows how the vendor wants to be paid, what income multiple is to be used, understands the time frame for offers to be submitted and when completion is to take place. All offers are sent to Nicola Draper and then forwarded to the vendor. By having a meeting day, the vendor will have a choice of offers and the time frame for completing the deal is reduced significantly.

Second – We hold Drop in Meeting days.

Vendors are often unsure about the process of how to sell an accountancy practice. Nicola Draper travels around the country meeting vendors face to face to discuss with them any issues they may have about how and when to sell their fees. These meetings are held in hotels away from the office of the vendor and are completely confidential. Many vendors have said how much they appreciate a face to face meeting with an expert in this field. Selling an accountancy practice can be a very emotional decision and talking to someone who has over a decade of experience can reduce any anxiety over what the next step should be and when.

Third – Draper Hinks has a hands on approach.

We work with the vendors and buyers to broker the deal. We have very regular contact, often daily and sometimes more than that. We work closely with both parties and like to know that things are progressing. We like to know when meetings are being held and like to get feedback from meetings. We are copied in on emails so can see immediately if there is a problem and can intervene at an early stage to get things ironed out.

We are proud to have the good reputation we have in the market place and have sold well over 100 accountancy practices in the last few years. We only sell accountancy practices and we know what we are doing.

If you want to talk about this, or any other matter please email me at quoting reference Blog 150602