This article contains some tips from a long-time practitioner to business valuators who are reaching retirement age, but are not ready to retire and just play golf.
Since I am one of the oldest active members (and perhaps the oldest member) of NACVA and other business appraisal organizations, I thought that some of my observations about continuing to practice business valuation after official “retirement” age may be of interest to some of our readers who are approaching that milestone in his or her career. (At the time of this writing, I am 85.)
First, a brief chronology of my own career may help the reader appreciate what follows. After graduating from college in 1949, I joined a local CPA firm and worked there for two years before I was called up for active duty as a second lieutenant in the field artillery for frontline combat duty in the Korean war for about two more years. Returning back to the CPA firm, I passed the CPA exam and ultimately worked my way up to managing partner of a 50-person local firm. Many years later, as retirement loomed, I merged my firm with a regional CPA firm and successively became the chairman of its management committee and later, its firm-wide director of taxes. During my 11-year stint there, I had many administrative duties, but I vowed never to let myself become obsolete in the technical aspects of professional practice specialties. I became very active in both my state CPA society and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), and consistently attended many continuing professional education (CPE) programs in order to keep from becoming obsolete.
Along came the firm’s mandatory retirement age of 65, and I now was free to enjoy travel, golf, gardening, cooking, and photography. One problem—I never played golf and was not motivated to learn anyway! So, I soon decided to immerse myself in business valuation. I had dabbled in it for a number of years during the last decade at the CPA firm. At this point, after “flunking” retirement, I formally set up my own solo practice as business valuator.
At that juncture, I took advantage of every possible business valuation course, seminar, and conference that came along. I took, and passed, the Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV) exam in the second year that it was offered. At about the same time, I joined, and became active in the National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts (NACVA). I also joined both the local chapters and the national Institute of Business Appraisers (IBA) and American Society of Appraisers (ASA) national organizations.
So much for the narrative of my professional journey.
Now, I would like to offer some thoughts on some things that I believe have led to a successful and happy business appraisal practice of these 20 “post-pseudo-retirement” years. In the subsequent paragraphs, I would like to note a few points that have worked for me as a solo business valuation practitioner.
1. Never stop learning!
This world that we now live in is fast moving and rapidly changing. Therefore, spend time, money, and attend professional courses, conferences, and seminars as frequently as you can to remain current and network. Do not be satisfied just fulfilling the required minimum CPE hours! Keeping up-to-date in the latest developments in the business valuation world has many benefits. It keeps your mind working, it makes you feel good, and last but not least, maintains a continuous inflow of client fees so you can have those extra overseas vacations, dinners out, and the latest electronic gadgets.
2. Remain active in professional business valuation organizations!
You will not only be able to accomplish the learning goals that I have just described, but you will also be able to keep up acquaintanceships with other active professional colleagues and meet new ones. As a solo practitioner, it is nice to have someone to call or meet to discuss issues that come up in client assignments.
3. Respect your professional colleagues!
Never badmouth your competitors. I have always spoken favorably about other professional business valuators. Doing so has paid good dividends. I have frequently obtained clients that have been referred to me by my competitors in situations where they have real, or possibly appearances of, conflicts of interest. This has often been the case even where the colleagues practice with firms that have very competent and well-respected business valuation departments.
4. Maintain Contacts with CPA Firms!
I believe that a large portion of QuickReadBuzz readers are CPAs and have many CPA friends who practice in CPA firms. That being the case, first of all, maintain your contacts with them, and be sure to outspokenly let them know that, if they refer any clients to you, you will absolutely not steal them by performing any CPA services beyond the specific business valuation needs for which they have been referred to you. In my current practice, my major referral source has been other CPA firms. Over the years, I have belonged to an organization called the Minneapolis CPA Tax Roundtable, which meets for lunch every Friday. I have maintained my membership in this group and am a regular attendee. I make it clear that, even though I attend in order to be aware of current tax issues, I no longer practice as a tax expert, and I tell fellow members of the Tax Roundtable that I frequently make the statement to former business contacts that, “I am dangerous in the tax area! You should ask your CPA tax expert that question!”
5. Maintain High Ethical and Other Professional Standards
Before I end this “sermon,” even though it really goes without saying, I want to remind you to continue to follow the highest level of the ethical and professional standards of the governmental regulatory bodies and professional organizations of which you are a member. You will maintain the respect of your colleagues in the profession and hopefully be able to enjoy a happy and prosperous “post-pseudo-retirement” period of life, and be able to sleep well at the end of the day.
Dick Thorsen is a CPA/ABV, ABAR, CVA, and CMEA. He has been an active CPA since 1954 and served as chairman of the Minnesota State Board of Accountancy and president of the Minnesota Society of CPAs. Mr. Thorsen has been elected vice president of the AICPA and has been a member of its board of directors, along with 21 of its committees, and chair of its Responsibilities in Tax Practice Committee. He is a past member of the Institute of Business Appraisers (IBA) Board of Governors, its Professional Responsibility Board, and was one of its representatives on the NACVA/IBA Standards Unification Task Force. He is a member of NACVA’s Standards Committee and a past member of the Examination Grading Committee. Dick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.