There are several things you must consider when determining the timing of starting to plan your succession:
- How often you personally see your client base. Many firm’s clients mail in the work, use portals or the cloud, are dealing with staff during the year and only see the partner(s) annually. Add those clients to your annual business and personal tax clients and most firms find out that the bulk of their clients are only seen in person or actually provided service by the partner once a year.
- How many years do you plan to continue to work FULL TIME? Full time is defined as the same level of time commitment you currently contribute to your practice. The question is not “do you want to continue working?” The question is “how long do you want to work at your current level?” You may elect to work part time for many more years than you are prepared to work full time.
Now that you answered numbers 1 and 2 above, you must realize that in all likelihood if you are 3 years from slowing down, for the bulk of your clients it is only 3 visits. It takes time to transition relationships therefore, the more frequently you see your clients the less time you need to transition them. The opposite applies as well. If you are like most firms and the majority of your clients are only seen in person once a year, you need 3 to 5 years to perform a proper transition.
Are your clients brand or partner loyal? If your clients are loyal to the brand, it will take less time to transition the relationships than it will if your clients are loyal to the individual partner more so than the brand.
More information on succession planning:
- The Long Goodbye by Joel Sinkin and Terrence Putney, The Journal of Accountancy, c2013
- Succession Planning: What’s the Future of Your Firm? by Joel Sinkin and Bill Carlino, Connecticut CPA, c2013
- Succession Planning: Key Questions for CPA Firm Partners to Ask Now by Joel Sinkin and Mark Basinski, Washington CPA, c2012