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5 Keys to Strong M&A Integration and Succession

Many CPA firms are now hard at work negotiating deals to be effective in the fourth quarter of 2023, or no later than January 1, 2024. The consequence of successful negotiations is the need for a strong integration and transition system. With effective dates being almost a blink of an eye away, here are five recommendations for integration and transition.

  1. Create a buddy system. Pair staff and partners with counterparts and encourage both formal and informal interaction. There will be anxieties on both sides by the players, so the more easily information can be shared, the better the outcome will be.

  2. Detail the partner/leadership transition process. Make the transition to leadership a collaborative effort for the successor and the partner readying for retirement. Start before the effective date and map out all clients, using a checklist of steps and timing to facilitate turnover and feedback. The process should include the transferor and transferee, as well as management from the successor and high level members of the engagement team.

  3. Ensure that "A" clients will continue to be "A" clients. The top 20 clients of the smaller of the two firms should be welcomed personally by the leadership of the new/combined firm. Convenient accessibility to the old and new regimes must be stressed and actualized. Check-ins by either internal marketing people or outside professionals should take place every 30 days for the first six months of the combination to confirm satisfaction, and to uncover areas to be addressed. The top 20 clients of the successor must also receive regular communication and diligent focus, so they experience no change in their attention, affection, and perceived value as a client to the new firm entity.

  4. Onboard with empathy and accountability. Vet all job descriptions ahead of the orientation and role play. All leaders should ask to be held accountable and all should know who the final authority is for decision-making. Check-ins should be scheduled and conducted with use of either internal or external resources.

  5. Build blended service teams. Selectively staff engagements with people from both sides of the transaction. This does not mean eliminating people, but it does mean modifying roles.

Lead time is very important for a successful transition. The viability of the economic terms of the deal will be dependent on many factors, with integration and transition being high on the list. The rewards of a strong plan are to the benefit of all.

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