In ancient times, about the same period when religious contemplatives pondered such esoterica as how many angels can fit on the head of a pin, Zen Buddhist monks often strengthened their focus and meditation skills with koans – a paradoxical anecdote or riddle for which there is often no answer.
To wit, a common koan would be “what is the sound of one hand clapping?” or the more well-known – “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound?
I have a few of my own, albeit with a more updated relevance.
For example why does Hawaii have interstate highways? Or, why does the owner of the annual Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes never live in an apartment building?
Sadly, same can be said often about succession planning – sans the humor.
If a CPA firm has a partner or partners wanting to slow down with no one on board to fill the void why do so many put off succession planning until it’s too late?
Perhaps a Zen Buddhist can help figure that one out, because even after five years as a consultant, I am still at a loss as to explain why.
Despite mounds of evidence to the contrary some still stubbornly carry on despite the inevitably of their actions – or more accurately, inactions.
Next week, I’m scheduled to give a presentation on succession planning at the offices of global legal firm Skadden Arps. (Go figure that one out.) Without knowing in advance who will be attending, I would be willing to forgo one week’s salary to wager there will be at least a half-dozen in the audience who fit the above-mentioned criteria.
And polishing off my crystal ball I predict the session will go something like this: I will speak for one hour, showing various slides, statistics and case studies about the value of planning early for succession (usually 5-7 years in advance), field some scattered questions, hand out business cards and guarantee you those who really need succession planning help will never call.
It may well be the CPA version of a koan and it’s time proven.
Nevertheless, I will continue to impart the critical importance of succession planning and if one or two pay attention, I’ll consider it mission accomplished.
So, if a CPA firm shuts down due to a lack of proper transition, does it make a sound?
Sorry, I couldn’t resist.