Tuesday, May 21, 2019

More Delusion than Illusion

The other day (ever notice how many of my columns begin with those three words?) I received a call from a sole practitioner in the New York area who, as he nears 70, was thinking not of slowing down, but rather inquired as to whether I had any opportunities for him to absorb.


He thought that a young owner with a smaller firm would be willing to merge in with an elder statesman who obviously gave little or no thought to client transition or a buyout.

I thought to myself that this was as self-delusional as buffoonish New York Mayor Bill de Blasio declaring his candidacy for the Presidency in 2020. And had about as much of a chance of succeeding.

But my warnings fell on deaf ears.

He had no intention of slowing down anytime soon and certainly had no one in his firm to take over when he ultimately did decide to slow down.

That’s what colloquially is known as truly a man without a plan.

Not to be outdone, literally a day later I was contacted by a practitioner in New England with basically the same scenario, - in his mid-60s, no one on his “bench” but stubbornly refusing to consider merging up.

For roughly the 10,000th time since I have held this post, I explained the inevitable uphill battle he would be facing if he remained loyal to that strategy. Again, it’s as if I explained it in Sanskrit. He insisted if he found the “right” firm (re: a small practice run by younger people) he would be set for the near and long term.

Uh uh.

I commended him on the plan, but then became in his eyes the proverbial dorsal fin at the shipwreck when I patiently explained that 50,000 or so other CPA firms in the country had a similar strategy – many of them far larger practices than his with infinitely more recruiting resources. With 7,500 Baby Boomers retiring each day you can imagine the massive void needed to fill the talent pipeline.

Like many others I’ve given “the talk” to, he was adamant that he was pursuing the right course for his future.

There’s nothing sadder than rational people who immerse themselves in different degree of delusion. Will they eventually come around? Maybe.

Then I saw a news segment featuring de Blasio trumpeting his campaign – the 24th Democrat to enter the 2020 race for the White House.

Delusion comes in all shapes and sizes.

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