By Stacee Rash, CPA
Retiring partners are not the only CPAs with succession planning on their minds these days. Young CPAs are equally concerned about the future of the firm. While we seem to stand on opposite sides of our careers—one entering, one exiting—now is the time to work together more than ever. From the young CPA perspective, future partners are seeking retiring partners to: identify, answer, provide, and include.
Our profession is at its busiest grappling with automation, tax reform, client expectations, time constraints, and many other obstacles. In addition, retiring partners are thinking about the future of their firms and current partner groups are charged with identifying future partners from their young CPA pool. Once identified, young CPAs want clear communication about their future potential sooner than later. Do your future partners know who they are?
Young CPAs are looking for partners to answer questions about future partnership opportunities. Do your future partners know the answers to these questions?
- What is my timeline for achieving partner?
- What are the metrics I need to produce to be a candidate?
- How do I compare to other partner candidates?
- If the firm has different types or levels of partners, can you explain the differences and which do you see in my future?
- What are the buy-in requirements and how will they be funded—personal savings, grossed up earnings, loan program, etc.?
- What agreements will I sign?
- How will my progress toward partner be evaluated?
Working together over the years, it is easy to assume a young CPA already knows what being a partner is all about. You did, after all, set a great example, right?! To help ensure success, future partners need to be provided additional opportunities. While you did provide that great example of a partner, do not underestimate the power of your mentorship to a young CPA. Be open, honest, candid, and transparent when answering their questions. We are striving to fill your big shoes. Give future partners the opportunity to assess requirements, demands, and expectations of the roles ahead of them. Invest in additional leadership training. Young CPAs of today will be shaping the young CPAs of tomorrow. Plan new partner trainings to include topics such as key documents, compensation systems, profitability factors, key responsibilities, etc. Start by asking yourself, what are you providing for your future partners right now?
Lastly, young CPAs are seeking something that may not have happened many years ago—we want to be included. Young CPAs are empowered by making a difference so grant them the opportunities to make a difference in your firm. Give young CPAs the chance to have a voice whether it be in a group or one-on-one setting. From leading a technology initiative to leading a workplace program for retention, young CPAs are willing to drive change for the better. Are you including your future partners now in the decisions that will be a part of their future?
What we can learn is that succession planning can be a joint effort on the part of current and future firm leaders. A significant part of the future success of our profession will be the unified transition of firms to the next generation.