I am fortunate to have many wonderful relationships with my clients’ accountants. We take a sincere interest in the each other’s welfare and they recognize the high degree of personal gratification I receive from significantly impacting their clients’ succession planning. The conversation often includes them telling me, “Loyd, you are doing what I have been wanting to do.” So in addition to being asked my opinion of an accountant’s role in succession planning, I am also asked if an accountant can be a succession planner

There is tremendous opportunity for accountants to take a greater role in succession planning as they are already critical to the succession planning process. Therefore, all they have to do to be more involved is to begin to speak succession planning. Guaranteed, more dialogue on the subject will create more involvement. However, I can affirm that most accountants are more comfortable focusing on the details of tax and compliance versus venturing off into a new professional discipline. When they venture out of the sweet spots of tax and compliance it is also only natural for them to gravitate to financial planning and investments which are first cousins to compliance, tax and reporting. An accountant’s financial viability is based upon recurring revenue of many relatively similar clients to who they are giving relatively similar advice. The assumption is: give good service, don’t do something stupid and the revenue will recur, year after year. The thought of pushing into an area that is not black and white and has plenty of opportunity to upset the owner or the next generation owners and put the recurring revenue at risk can be a bit scary.

However, to be more involved in succession planning an accountant does not have to push his or her way into the owner’s office and demand to be heard on controversial topics. All the accountant has to do is to acknowledge their role, their unique positioning and fully accept the powerful contribution they can make to the decisions critical to the continuation of success. The accountant has to recognize that as an advisor who classically is trusted the most by the business owner, they are in a position to have a significant impact on the owner’s decisions. Although I am presenting this as an opportunity for accountants, I frankly I believe that accountants have a responsibility to their clients to bring up succession and offer opinions when solicited. There is just too much at risk for too many people for the accountant not to leverage his or her position to promote thinking about the continuation of success. The accountant does not have to profess expertise as a succession planner and by no means is it necessary or recommended that they render opinions on anything outside of their comfort zone. But to be more involved in succession planning all the accountant has to do is talk about succession planning as a responsibility of everyone in a leadership and advisory position. With a reputation for being an advocate for succession planning, it is very unlikely the accountant will be left out of the room when succession planning decisions are being made.

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