Accountants who seek new challenges and opportunities can be full-time dedicated succession planners. In fact there are many progressive accounting firms that have partners dedicated to being proactive in succession planning. These specialists within the accounting firm work with existing clientele and also serve as an independent profit center as they pursue new clients outside the realm of the current client base. Minimally, succession planning specialists within an accounting firm boost partner-level revenue and score project opportunities for other specialists in their practice like business valuations, feasibility studies, and research projects which are part and parcel to succession planning.
So what does an accountant have to do to become a succession planner? My recommended place to start is with the International Succession Planning Association® which offers training for the Certified Succession Planner® designation. Also, hanging out with a diversity of clients and their attorneys provides impressive understanding of most of the technical aspects of succession planning. For those who feel a need for more technical depth, training programs are offered by the American College of Financial Services and the Financial Planning Association.
Apart from confidence in the technical aspects of succession planning, all accountants who are considering becoming a succession planner must make a fundamental service transition from compliance to reliance. As a team facilitator, the succession planner relies on the attorney and accountant to provide assurance that the plans are in compliance with all regulatory governing bodies. The business owner in turn relies on the succession planner to follow a comprehensive, deliberate process that does not let anything impacting the continuation of success fall through the cracks. The succession planner is to be relied upon to make a comprehensive assessment of circumstances, learn the perspectives of all those involved, tell the truth about what he learns and believes without bias or predisposition, and demonstrate to the business owner that he or she can be relied upon to do the right thing for the business, the family, the management and the employees. This reliance has no expectation of perfection but it does have an expectation of being an empathetic, confidential advisor to the owner on the most challenging goals and issues.
Depending upon the perspective of the accountant, a transition from compliance to reliance could be fun or frightening. I would assert that any discomfort incurred would be rewarded with a sense of accomplishment associated with the perpetuation of business legacies which sustains financial security for the clients and their families, employees and vendors. Furthermore, in contrast to repetitious accounting there are no two days in succession planning alike; every day is a unique challenge. Service as a succession planning leader does involve risks but these leadership risks come with commensurate rewards both emotionally and financially.
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