How and when will you retire?

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Finola McManus urges practitioners to a step back from day-to-day issues and think about their own long-term future with a retirement planning checklist.

Now that summer holidays are upon us and many practitioners are struggling to manage even two weeks away from the office, many may be asking themselves whether they can ever permanently extract themselves form the business.
This article isn’t about the specific logistics of going through a sale here as there is enough written on that subject. Instead, I want to set out a help sheet to ensure practitioners are planning ahead and preparing for succession in general. My experience has shown that the main criticism of any “buyer” is that the outgoing partner had not spent time planning their exit, so the practice is worth less and not so attractive to any buyer. Why sell yourself short when you have spent a lifetime building your firm?
If you were planning to sell your home you would clean it up and do a bit of DIY to show it in its best light. So why not do the same when thinking of disposing of your own business ?
There are two main strategies to consider when planning for retirement or succession;

  • An outright sale to a third party or merger with a similar sized or larger firm
  • A transfer of equity to an existing partner- whether it be someone who has been trained ‘in house’ or someone you have brought into the business with this purpose in mind.

Whichever is the best strategy for you, the principles below are relevant when planning for that point in time.

My suggestion would be to initially block out three hours a week in the diary, and treat it with the same priority as as a client meeting; don’t take phone calls, ignore the e-mails for a short time and start to work on the ideas discussed in the full article.

Planning for the future is a rewarding exercise in itself and will help you feel more in control and increase the enjoyment you get from your business.
As always, I am happy to answer any specific questions by e-mail at [email protected] and on the website.

Finola McManus is a chartered accountant and former senior partner, who now runs her own consultancy service, Practice Perfect.

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About Finola McManus

Finola McManus profile

With over 25 years in practice, McManus spends her time helping other accountancy practices change and grow. She is passionate about sharing the secrets of success and working with accountancy practice owners. 


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20th Jun 2011 14:22

Put yourself first

@Finola - excellent article.

I was recommended a book by a leading Financial Adviser called The Number. It’s about how much money you need to live out the rest of your life but touches on non-monetary topics.

I’d highly recommend this to accountants. Get personal goals sorted, complete a detailed financial model (with different assumptions) and then look at the practice. Maybe you don’t need to do anything, maybe you need to pull your finger out or perhaps it is a case of tweaking your expenditure profile.

By the way, this type of advanced number crunching is something I feel accountants could do for their clients. At the end of the day, clients are looking for exit and their business is a key financial instrument in their planning.

Bob Harper

Marketing Consultant


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24th Jun 2011 11:57

this is so profoundly depressing

i shall just have to up my medication - we all know now where thats leading - and one unit a week - i cant go on 

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By dgowens
24th Jun 2011 14:57

Retirement planning

I’m not planning to retire, however, I do have a continuity agreement with another firm of accountants to take over my clients if I’m unable to continue.

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By jbayman
24th Jun 2011 17:54


Good article but your sale plans need an underpin of pension and other provision. Selling your business assumes a lot of things, some of which you may not have control over. Maximising your sale value means you are on top of your job with good quality clients who stay loyal - as we get older the energy and drive to be on top of those often demanding clients can't be guaranteed. In a practice of four partners there is a 68% chance one will suffer a critical illness during their working life, do you have contingency plans for this, partnership buy out insurance perhaps?

The economic climate might not be conducive to a sale, potential purchasers may be scarce, capital may be difficult to raise. How easier was it to sell a practice pre credit crunch compared to today? Timing is important.

I am semi retiring at the end of the year - I will be 60 but I am fortunate to have salted away enough cash during the good years to give me a good pension despite Gordon Brown's stealth taxes. The choice and timing is mine. I will continue to work part time - not because I have to but because I want to, and fortunately my health is good so Mrs B and I shall enjoying some quality time en France checking out next years vintage and spending some more quality time with my new grandson. 


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