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Make-or-Break Questions to Succeed at Transition and Succession

Talent conditions in the CPA community impact firms in many ways. While larger firms may have advantages at times, they too have struggles. Bigger is not always better. Getting better – and getting it right – must go hand in hand.


As you consider options for transition and succession, both internal and external, here are important questions to answer ahead of time.


Transition

  1. Will a client profile be used or created?

  2. What clients should transition first?

  3. How will clients support the transition?

  4. How will timelines for transition be determined?

  5. Will there be a fixed method for transitioning or will there be a customized approach to create a process specific to each leader?

  6. How will you define success?

  7. How frequently will progress be measured (and who will measure)?

  8. Will there be a vested financial benefit to the parties in the transition?

  9. Do you know the expectations of potential successors running your client base?

  10. Will there be penalties for failure to implement and how they will be enacted?


Succession

  1. What controls will be difficult to give up?

  2. What controls will be difficult to accept?

  3. What worries do the parties have and why?

  4. What is an acceptable sharing of risk?

  5. Are incentives important to aligning?

  6. Are there key players who will need incentives/rewards?

  7. What has gone wrong with other successions, if anything?

  8. How will problems and mistakes be handled?

  9. What accountability will be in play?

  10. How significant will the operational changes need to be?


Some firms have limited internal options and others have internal options that have not been considered. Some firms believe – or know – they have external options. For some, the connection between the internal and external team is a positive; for others, it's a negative.


Here's the reality: Transition and succession are not easy but they can be even more difficult without proper planning and questioning the strategy and tactics that can make each a success.


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