Back in 2012, BVWire ran a news item reporting that the era of the business valuation generalist was over. Since then, this notion was reinforced in ongoing coverage. For example, we reported in 2015 that attorneys look for specialized skills when engaging an appraiser. Today, the advice to specialize continues to resonate.
At the recent NACVA conference, veteran valuation expert Chris Mercer (Mercer Capital) went so far to say that specialization will help rejuvenate the business valuation profession. He points out that being a “jack-of-all-trades but master of none” makes it difficult to compete with those who have proven expertise in certain niches.
How to do it
During a recent series of webinars, experienced valuers point to specialization as a way to grow a practice. Mark Zyla, who recently launched his own firm (Zyla Valuation Advisors), is a highly regarded expert in fair value measurements. How did he become a leading authority in this area of practice? It doesn’t happen overnight, he explained, and you need to have a long-term plan.
The first step is to choose a practice area that you are interested in and that hopefully has some promise, Zyla advises. Whatever niche you choose, go into it gradually and don’t immediately abandon every other area of your practice.
An investment in education is a must, advises Mercer in his NACVA presentation. He recommends a technique inspired by Earl Nightingale, a noted motivational speaker. That is, spend an hour a day, five days a week, focusing on the specialty. That’s 250 hours a year, and, after four years, it adds up to 1,000 hours. “I promise you that if you spend 1,000 hours on something, you will become a specialist,” he says. Of course, this education must be done after a foundation of knowledge that includes schooling and earning BV credentials.
Zyla also recommends that you become involved in the valuation profession by serving on committees at your professional association or other group. Zyla was part of the group that developed the first valuation in financial reporting advisory from The Appraisal Foundation. He currently chairs the Standards Review Board at the International Valuation Standards Council. Not only does this help cement your authority, but it also puts you on the cutting edge of thought leadership that you can apply in your own practice.
Join the book club
One of the things that greatly contributes to building authority in a niche is to write a book. Mercer has done several books on specialized topics such as buy-sell agreements and his method for estimating a discount for lack of marketability. Rod Burkert (Burkert Valuation Advisors LLC), who interviewed Zyla for his webinar series, agreed that writing a book has become extremely important to differentiate yourself in this profession. “A book is today’s business card,” he says.
Spread the word
Once you achieve some level of specialization, you will need to let everyone know about it. Get out in front of people by, for example, speaking at conferences or webinars. And don’t just target events your peers attend; get in front of potential clients and referral sources, such as business owners and attorneys. Zyla is also a big proponent of social media as a good way to broadcast your authority.
This is only scratching the surface of what’s to come in the business valuation world, so we invite you to check out the September special issue of the Business Valuation Update to keep yourself front and center with current events in the business valuation community.Are you a business valuation practitioner that specializes in a certain area? BVR is always looking for contributing authors for the Business Valuation Update and speakers for upcoming webinars. If you have an article or webinar topic you’d like to discuss, we’d love to hear from you!