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Building a Company Positioned for the Future

Planning for growth or succession? Tips to get you to success, no matter the end goal


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It seems almost every day, a merger between professional service firms is announced and Colorado is no stranger to this phenomenon, with its fair share of mergers over the last several years, as well. There are many reasons for professional service firms to merge, including access to additional resources and succession planning. Specifically regarding firm mergers, in a recent AICPA survey, 40 percent of firm owners are planning to retire during the next five years and 84 percent expect succession planning to be a significant issue in the next decade. Regardless of the end goals, there are key areas leaders should focus on to thrive in a competitive market and position their companies for future success.

PLAN FOR GROWTH + SUCCESSION

Succession planning is more than planning to replace key leaders when they leave a company or retire. Succession planning often gets pushed to the back burner, viewed as a plan for replacement of individuals in key management positions. Of course, that's one benefit to succession planning in any company, but especially in professional service firms, where historical knowledge and transitioning relationships are essential. Beyond replacing people in case of retirement or an accident, succession planning has greater benefits and positions a company for growth.

When companies create a plan that showcases opportunities and positive challenges, employees are better able to see a hopeful future at the company. When employees see themselves as a part of the future organization growth, retention increases. Writing a plan that includes both leadership development, future needs and growth opportunities is great for morale and retention.

Some ways to actively plan for growth and succession by:

  • Career path planning involves understanding the motivators of each person involved – Offer employees opportunities that match their goals whether it be an accelerated path to partner or a flexible schedule while they are raising children.
  • As an example, Anton Collins Mitchell brings additional resources and capacity to clients through strategic alliance with BDO, a multi-billion dollar global firm. This way, we can access resources while retaining local decision making, benefiting both our people and clients.
  • Offering team members the highest quality national training to improve skills and interact with peers across the country and globe.
  • Being nimble enough to expand business lines or enter new business lines as market opportunities present themselves.

CULTURE PLANNING

Great cultures don't just happen by accident – They are planned. Some companies think of planning in terms of the number of employees needed in the coming year(s). While growing modeling is important, innovative companies examine their current cultures and are constantly taking inventory of what is working and what isn’t. Consider these areas when developing your culture:

  • INDIVIDUAL GROWTH: What opportunities are you giving your employees to grow? Do you understand how they desire to develop over time? Leadership opportunities, training, individual development plans and technical skills are just a few areas to consider.
  • APPRECIATION + ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Do you know how members of your team want to be treated and rewarded for success? Are there mechanisms in place to allow for acknowledgement?
  • FEEDBACK + MEASUREMENT STANDARDS: Do people understand what the goals of the organization are? Do they understand how they will be measured and how they will be held accountable? Is there a formal evaluation process and is there regular feedback or coaching? Is the company transparent with goals?
  • ENGAGEMENT: – An engaged employee is a happy employee.  There are many ways to keep employees engaged including working with other talented people and looking at your recruitment process; optimizing onboarding processes; activities that encourage interaction and feedback at all levels of the company; and having fun and being challenged.

At ACM, we regularly work on our culture constantly. We have a “People Committee” that meets regularly to examine the areas above. Here are some of the ways that ACM works on culture:

  • Being transparent with employees includes sharing the results of annual strategic planning with everyone, complete with firm financial results and aligning performance-based compensation with individual and firm results.
  • We implemented a software system to aid in HR/evaluations. The system assists with reviews, follow-ups and keeps each person updated as to what their responsibilities are.  
  • We put into place an annual merit system personal goal plan directly tied to the firm's overall goal where economic rewards are shared with every employee if overall goals are met. Yes, every ACM team member has a bonus plan.
  • Firm-wide events, contests and fun activities to encourage relationship development.

GET INVOLVED + GIVE BACK

I am a firm believer in what I refer to as the enrichment cycle. The philosophy of the enrichment cycle is that the more you give, the more you get back in return. What you receive in return is not necessarily a financial enrichment but rather the ability to be more engaged in your community, philanthropy and being able to make a difference in the lives of others. In this regard, individual leadership leads to the enrichment of many, not just a few.  

ACM is a locally owned, locally committed firm.  We encourage our people to get involved, even writing it into their goal planning for the year.  Further, we financially support the activities of our people who are giving their time and resources back to our communities.  We believe that together, we become stronger.


Gregory J. Anton, CPA, is the chairman and CEO of Anton Collins Mitchell.

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