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How adding advisory services can affect your succession planning

Will Hill, MBA  Product Manager — Tax Professionals Advisory, Thomson Reuters

Will Hill, MBA  Product Manager — Tax Professionals Advisory, Thomson Reuters

When thinking about advisory and succession planning, many firm owners may wonder why they should make the shift when they’re so close to retirement. However, the market is in a transition as well. Adding advisory to your services can only benefit the future of your firm and the legacy you leave behind.

In this episode of Pulse of Practice “Changing the Succession Tune”, Paul Miller, CPA from Business by Design, and I are joined by Wayne Shelton, owner of Shelton & Associates. Together, we discuss how Wayne’s shift to being advisory-centric has changed his plans while approaching his succession planning.

CPAs work forever, right?

As Wayne Shelton approached the age of 69, he began to think about how the shift to advisory in his firm may impact his succession and retirement planning, and how he views his firm going forward.

“Unfortunately, I will probably never fully retire,” says Wayne half-jokingly. “My ideal life, I live on a farm with a lot of animals and crops. I would work 2 or 3 days a week, then maybe take a month off. The interesting thing about the Practice Forward model, particularly now that we’ve gone through the pandemic, is you can work remotely. People are very comfortable with that now.”

He notes that advisory, specifically, is easy to perform remotely, as opposed to the typical compliance work.

“The nice thing about now being in the advisory business is being able to get ahold of clients remotely,” adds Wayne. “I can do the same thing from anywhere in the world. It’s going to make a huge difference for me going forward.”

In this industry, as individuals come close to some version of transition, most people don’t exit completely. They have habits, and they wonder why at this point they would need to change.

“I’ve been in this business for 45 years, and when I first started out, they taught us in school that we were auditors,” notes Wayne. “That was where all the action was, and that has changed so much.

“When we got advisory, I saw the possibility. We were all in. Clients are going somewhere else for compliance work. In my opinion, to use the years of experience that I’ve got, advisory and Practice Forward is perfect. My only regret is I didn’t do this 10 years ago. That’s my only regret.”

How adding advisory dramatically changed the succession plan.

Prior to shifting to an advisory-centric firm, Wayne wasn’t sure what his succession plan would look like. He was fortunate enough to have his son-in-law come in as a partner, but he was worried, with the huge change in the market, what this life would look like for him.

“But with us moving to advisory, it has dramatically changed everything,” says Wayne. “He is able to pick right up. It makes him feel secure in the future, which makes me feel great about being able to roll that forward to him, and for me to be involved at whatever level he wants me to be involved.”

Drastic change is often met with reservations. However, since making the switch to advisory, Wayne’s firm has seen great reception from all clients. Existing clients love the new model, and he’s acquired some new clients. Clients feel as if the firm is there with them, helping them run their business. That, to Wayne, is gratifying.

“I think most people my age would say, ‘I’ve been doing things this way for many years. I’ve only got another five years. I don’t want to change it now.’ They don’t want to learn the new things, but the thing is, they’re not learning new things. They’re taking the things they have learned over the last 40 or so years and putting them in practice to help their clients, rather than just being a scorekeeper. It’s a mindset.”

Paving a future for your firm.

Throughout shifting to advisory while succession planning, Wayne kept his staff fully involved and informed. He feels that if they understand what is going on, they will be much more interested in all moving forward together. As a result, his team was fully prepared for the curveballs the pandemic threw at them.

“I think in the accounting industry, we talk about capital as being a scarcity,” adds Paul. “This is not just for physical cash but for human capital. When you make these changes, it is not necessarily always going to be for you. It’s for the people coming, both when recruiting new talent and current staff. That’s what is cool about changing your firm with advisory, it’s a selfless thing. It’s for other people, and what legacy you leave behind.”

Your staff is going to feel included in things beyond compliance early in their careers. They are going to be helping the clients, rather than just completing tasks. They’ll feel they are part of a team, which Wayne notes is just, “more fun”.

“This year is an anomaly, and once we get past this, we’re going to be working at a higher level with clients,” says Wayne. “I’m going to be doing the things I enjoy. I’m a people-pleasing type person, so advisory has been great for me. People just need to look at what they’ve been doing for the last 30 years and take advantage of it.”

Listen to the “Changing the Succession Tune” episode of the Pulse of the Practice podcast on your preferred platform (Apple, Spotify, Stitcher) or here.

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