Planning for succession at a small firm

Featuring Johanna Sweaney Salt, CPA, CGMA, a partner at Gray, Salt & Associates LLP in Claremont, Calif.


I’m not going to work forever. I do like to work. I have a few more good years left in me, so transitioning my firm to the next generation is also high on the list. And many other practitioners are in that same ballpark where, as you know, many Baby Boomers are retiring at record rates and a lot of them are accountants and a lot of them need to do succession planning as well and maybe haven't given that a lot of thought.

One of the things that we've done in order to prepare for my succession planning, because I'm a Baby Boomer. Our admin paraprofessional is an Xer. Everybody else are Millennials, OK? Including my partner, so that's been an interesting educational experience, but what we have been very conscious of doing is bringing along one of the other staff, whether it's my partner or one of the staff accountants, on pretty much every client engagement and getting them more and more familiar with it and letting them have a little bit more each month or each quarter or however often we work on that particular project.

Then if the client has a question, or the client needs something, when they reach out to me, I will say, “You know what, I'm going to forward your call to Mary because she's probably going to be able to give you a better answer since she's been working on this more in depth than I have.” Just really — also training the clients that, hey, there's somebody else here, besides Johanna, who can help me, who can make sure that my tax return gets done, my financial statements are complete, and being really conscious of that.

Where to find January’s flipbook issue

Starting this month, all Association magazines — the Journal of Accountancy, The Tax Adviser, and FM magazine (coming in February) — are completely digital. Read more about the change and get tips on how to access the new flipbook digital issues.


Get your clients ready for tax season

Upon its enactment in March, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) introduced many new tax changes, some of which retroactively affected 2020 returns. Making the right moves now can help you mitigate any surprises heading into 2022.