Three Keys to Manage the Succession
Planning Process in Your Accounting
John R. Ezell, CPA, CEPA
Founding Principal and President
Three Keys to Manage the Succession Planning Process in Your Accounting Practice
We speak with practice owners and partners about sales, mergers and succession planning issues
on a daily basis. Many firm owners have a general idea of what they want their exit strategy to
be, but have not formalized it into an executable plan. They have an idealized vision of their exit.
For most firms the responsibility for creating and executing the succession plan falls on the
managing partner. Managing partners tend to be very busy with clients and day-to-day operations
of their firms. As a result, it is all too easy for succession to be put on the back burner.
Sometimes casual conversation among partners passes for succession planning. But it is not tied
into the overall strategic planning of the firm. Nor are the real needs, motivations, and values of
the individual partners addressed.
In order for us to increase the probability of success in multiple partner firms, ProHorizons uses
three distinct phases in our succession planning process: Discovery, Design and Execution.
The Discovery Phase involves identifying the individual values and goals of each partner, and
defining value alignment and shared goals among the partners. Conducting a thorough discovery
increases the probability of a proper succession or merger at the time of execution. The goal of
the discovery phase is to help the firm owners understand their individual and mutual interests
and motivations in the succession of the firm.
The Design Phase involves taking what was discovered in the first phase and linking it to
strategic needs of the firm. During this phase, partners address issues identified in the Discovery
Phase. They anticipate challenges that will affect succession. This also allows them to manage
the expectations of clients and staff. The plan will include ob