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Tax & AccountingJuly 25, 2023

Essential steps for succession planning and a smooth retirement

While many people think of retiring with anticipation and excitement, others approach this new stage of life with anxiety and apprehension. Professional accounting firm owners often work well past the typical retirement age, sometimes because of uncertainty about how to wind down the business. However, with careful planning and consideration, you can make sure your clients are in good hands and ensure the future success of your firm. Here are some steps you can take to ensure a smooth transition.

Develop a succession plan

Identify a successor within your firm or consider external options. If your successor is already part of your firm, delegate responsibilities gradually to ensure a smooth transition and minimize disruption. Start the process early to allow sufficient time for the transition and provide comprehensive training to your successor and key employees. 

Encourage your team to take on leadership roles and empower them to make decisions. By automating repetitive processes,  you can elevate your junior staff and provide senior staff with additional management responsibilities and client-facing opportunities. 

Communicate with clients

Notify your clients well in advance about your retirement plans. Assure them that the firm will continue to provide quality service and introduce them to the successor or transition team. Address any concerns they may have and offer assistance in finding alternative service providers if needed.

Maintain open lines of communication with clients throughout the transition process. Keep them updated on key milestones, and address their concerns promptly to ensure a smooth transfer of client relationships to your successor.

Review firm operations 

Evaluate your firm's workflows and systems. Identify areas that may need improvement or adjustment for a smooth transition. Much like a homeowner preparing to sell their house, investing in improvements up front can add even more value down the road. Your potential successors may not be interested in a “fixer-upper.” 

Consider documenting key processes and client information to facilitate knowledge transfer. In addition to making the transition to new leadership easier, systematizing processes can make firms more efficient and provide more consistent client experiences.


Planning for a smooth transition

As you manage your firm with an eye towards retirement, long term strategies may seem counter-intuitive. However, being intentional about your firm’s future will make the process more rewarding for everyone. Starting early and involving your team and clients in the process will help create a smooth transition and ensure the ongoing success of your firm.

Product Marketing Manager, Tax

Aimee Hall is a product marketing manager for Wolters Kluwer Tax and Accounting US, focusing on the professional market. In this role, she is responsible for leading the marketing strategy for tax software products including CCH Axcess Tax, CCH ProSystem fx Tax and ATX Tax. She joined Wolters Kluwer in 2006 and lives in the Chicago suburbs.

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