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Leading An Accounting Firm by Troy Waugh

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17Sustaining Leadership: The Ultimate Succession Plan

“It’s important to figure out the short- and long-term view of succession. The person who could run the firm tomorrow might not fit the pattern you need 10 years from now.”

~ TONY ARGIZ

When most accountants think about succession planning, the CEO’s or managing partner’s role immediately comes to mind. However, when done appropriately, the succession plan should include key positions beyond those of upper leadership. Yet, many firms have not done a great job in building the bench strength of leaders at all levels. Then, when faced with a vacancy at the top, there is little selection to turn to for help. When firms neglect building tomorrow’s leaders for many years, those firms get sold for a small price. Not only do the owners lose capital, but the employees and clients get bounced around and lose.

In this chapter, I’ll provide some guidance on building an ongoing succession process that leads to an enduring accounting firm: one that remains independent or one that merges on its own terms. Sustainability and succession are natural by-products in the well-led firms. Succession is not accomplished well as a spreadsheet exercise, which is the way some consultants approach the subject. In this chapter, I’ll profile two leaders who’ve been very proactive in succession: (1) Kris McMasters, CEO of the national accounting firm CliftonLarsonAllen LLP in Milwaukee, WI, who led the succession planning team at Clifton Gunderson LLP, only ...

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