By John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker, LLC, BV Staffing + Consulting
BVFLS successorship challenges can be acute in the small-market CPA firm. The practice may never have grown much beyond one person, but it brings in enough revenue to make it worth hanging on to when you leave. Sustaining that revenue stream won’t be easy.
You probably advise clients to begin planning early for succession. You should do the same. The longer your runway, the more options you have.
If you can afford to think ten years out, you can test the acumen of someone from audit or tax who expresses an interest in your work. Be prepared for an investment in training, likely in the form of a drag on your productivity. At the same time, measure carefully to make sure you’re getting a return. A by-product of this approach is the eventual buildup of billable hours, which you can leverage later.
If you are in the five-year to six-year range, you can still find an heir apparent, though your options are fewer. For example, you can’t hire someone with no experience in the profession. Your universe of candidates shrinks, and the price tag rises. Small-market CPA firms typically calibrate their wage scales to compete for local audit and tax candidates. Fishing for BVFLS candidates in the national pool can bring on sticker-shock.
If you are telling yourself you want to be out in two to three years and there is no one next in line, you’ve given yourself a big hill to climb in finding a successor. There are steps you could take, agreements with other providers, perhaps, that would produce more value when it comes time to turn off the lights and lock the door.
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