'It's important that their styles are a good fit'
Dual designations: I always wanted to be a lawyer and thought about what undergraduate degree would be good for that job. I felt being a CPA would help me understand how businesses operate in the world and make it easier for me to represent them. It ended up being one of the best decisions I made. Many clients hire me because I am a CPA — I can talk with them about their business and communicate with their CPA firms. In my role at the law firm, most of our decisions have a financial impact, and as a CPA I can understand how the firm's finances work and how different aspects of the firm roll into the bottom line. As a lawyer, I work as outside general counsel to businesses. Most of their questions have financial implications. My dual designation is critical in dealing with taxes, accounting, and the finances of the business.
Advice to CPA firms on selling the firm: The number one mistake CPA firm leaders make when selling their firms is not finding a good cultural fit. Maybe the firms value their CPAs in different ways, they might acquire a firm where the fees are much lower, or they might serve a different industry. It might sound good that you're broadening your spectrum, but there can be a clash when buyers don't understand the clients of the firm they're acquiring. It's also important that their styles are a good fit. Some firms are really on the cutting edge, while others are very conservative and don't want to come anywhere near that line. Those two views won't mesh well with employees.
Succession planning: In small firms and even midsized firms, I often see the owners not openly discussing with the next generation their plans for succession. This can cause a lot of anxiety among colleagues. Successful firms have often spent a lot of time talking through a timeline, sharing information, and gaining support from the next generation. The other issue I see with smaller firms is that the leaders sometimes hang on to control way too long.
The need for continued involvement in the community and with nonprofits: Over the years, I've found it's helped me to be actively involved in the community and with nonprofits. I have benefited both personally and professionally from my community involvement. I am concerned that there is a decrease in the number of professionals volunteering their time with community and nonprofit organizations. It is easy to get involved. Find something you're interested in. It doesn't really matter what you're working on, as long as it's important to you and the community. Get actively involved and put some effort in.
— As told to Lea Hart, a freelance writer based in North Carolina. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Ken Tysiac, the JofA's editorial director, at Kenneth.Tysiac@aicpa-cima.com.