As a dedicated business succession planner my most important role is team facilitator. My role is to ensure that my clients have a complete planning team that represents the necessary disciplines needed to accomplish business succession, and that the team has the appropriate vision and works together effectively. Just like operating a successful business, business succession planning requires ultimate team work.
The diverse issues that impact the continued success of a business through the next generation, which are referred to as the Succession Matrix®, require the interaction of multiple professional disciplines including law, accounting, tax, strategic planning, management facilitation, family facilitation, financial planning, wealth management, life insurance, training, operational coaching, mentoring, etc. While a single-talented or broad-based professional can carry a disproportionate allocation of the workload, there is no “one stop” professional who can do it all.
Accepting that succession planning is a never ending process, all members of the advisor team will get multiple chances to take center stage and serve in the spotlight to provide their contribution towards achieving the succession goal. The diverse demands and the regulatory, financial, and emotional risks associated with estate administration, taxation, key manager retention, management synergy, successor development, family communication, creditor relationships and vendor relationships demands expert advisors to exemplify the Succession Planning Imperative: Teamwork .
I am frequently asked by accountants my opinion of their role in the succession planning process: Should they be involved? How much should they be involved? Should they confine their activity to just providing accounting or financial support or take a leadership role? My response has been that the accountant plays a critical role in succession planning and far too often they are not in the room when important decisions are being made. I would even go so far as to express that if there is a tendency to not involve the accountant in succession decisions there should be discussion as to whether the accountant should be replaced because something is wrong in River City! The insight of the accountant into the financial strength and resilience of the succession plan and the assurance that there are no regulatory issues are essential. The accountant also has the opportunity to have the closest advisor relationship with the business owner due to repetitive contact regarding financial statements, compliance, audits, tax returns, performance assessments, etc. Therefore, the “trusted” accountant is in a position to provide the business owner encouragement to undertake the challenge of succession planning. The owner needs the reassurance and peace of mind that his world will not come unraveled if he begins to discuss such potentially frightening issues as exit strategy, transfer of ownership and transfer of management responsibility. Also, in regards to compliance with government regulations, the accountant tends to have a historical perspective like no other adviser. As a vocal advocate of the accountant, I profess without reservation that succession planning without the involvement of a qualified accountant is an exercise in futility that will ultimately result in a succession plan cursed by holes, gaps and cracks.
Next week I will be posting my thoughts on how accountants can get more involved in succession planning.