Bill Reeb, Succession Institute LLC – Most Recommended Consultant

Succession Institute
Bill Reeb

What has surprised you most in the client interactions / questions / engagements you’ve had this past year?

Bill Reeb

Bill Reeb

Most senior owners are conservative when it comes to changing how their organizations work given the large amount of money they make and their comfort in what they have to do to make it.  But even when those owners realize that some of their key ideas and processes are substantially flawed, it is surprising how long they hold on to the philosophy that “what got me here will get me there.” The sad part is that as senior partners get close to retirement, that is when they first realize that what they have built really only works well for them. Merger mania is not driven by a shortage of talent, although that is the most expressed reason, but rather it is about an organizational structure and culture that has long outlived the success the firm has been enjoying, as they have consistently traded off long-term effective initiatives for short-term efficiency tactics.

What is the most common succession mistake being made in the profession today and how can it be addressed?

Succession isn’t about partners, although everyone wants to make it about them. Succession is about making sure everyone is living up to their entire job function, not just the parts they want to do. When partners get to do whatever they want, they often choose to revert back to manager-level work. Unfortunately, that dysfunction trickles down throughout the organization. Partners need to get out of the details of the work they are doing and spend more time in their higher-level client relationship and strategic advisory roles. When we consult with firms about succession, while there are definite issues that retiring partners need to comply with, like client transition, the solution is typically best found through leverage! By adding more people, learning to delegate, managing better, consistently training, most firms have enough partners, they just haven’t chosen to develop the kind of leverage necessary for seamless succession and sustainability.

What questions should firms be asking themselves if they want to grow as it relates to revenue?

Everyone wants to make business development into some complex magical skill set only possessed by sliver-tongued devils. This simply isn’t true. Organic growth is about holding partners and managers accountable to following basic fundamentals that should be clearly articulated in their roles and responsibilities. If you want to grow, stay visible with your referral sources and they will refer you. Even more important, stay visible and interested in your clients too, as not only will additional work come your way, but they will refer you to others as well. Make it your job to understand the strategic priorities of your top clients, including non-accounting focus areas, and good things will come your way. This simple, fun-to-do job function makes up about 90% of almost every firm’s organic growth, so stop making this harder than it needs to be … just make sure your people start doing their jobs!