Succession planning enables tax pros to demonstrate more value—and grow
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By Jack Oujo, CPA/PFS, CFP®, CSA, MS (Taxation)
In life, nothing is certain. Although this reality is an unfortunate one, it gives the present and next generations of tax professionals an opportunity to grow their practices.
I have first-hand familiarity with the curveballs life can throw. While attending college, I earned extra money by umpiring baseball games. Upon my graduation from Seton Hall University with a bachelor of science in Accounting, I decided to try my hand at becoming professional umpire. I had a reach goal of becoming a Major League Baseball umpire and spent the next eight years in the minor leagues, reaching Class AAA before ultimately being released. It was a subjective judgement made by a new management team. This was an early lesson in corporate America and I was determined to bet on myself and ultimately be self-employed.
Fortunately, I had my accounting degree to fall back on, and after obtaining my CPA and CFP® designations (as well as my securities license and my New Jersey Life and Health License), I formed a partnership with a fellow CPA. Our approach is going beyond simple tax filing and advice by marrying clients’ money to their goals in a tax-smart way.
As with every new business, we experienced a learning curve. We had to borrow on credit cards to get our CPA practice off the ground, and began by charging clients on a retainer basis. However, we soon realized we needed to rethink our business model, and took the bold step of joining the platform of a broker-dealer (HD Vest Investment Services®, now Avantax Investment ServicesSM), and utilizing its resources to help us obtain a holistic picture of a client’s wealth—and comprehensively communicate this perspective to clients.
The business immediately took off, and within five short years, we went from being a firm of three employees to 10 employees. With the tools to seamlessly provide holistic, tax-smart guidance and planning for clients, at scale, we could successfully onboard and demonstrate value for ever more clients, and convert more prospects into clients, without having to allocate substantial assets to marketing or advertising.
We have distinguished our business by adding a new dimension to the tax services we offer as a CPA firm—instead of just assisting with tax filings and giving tax advice, we work with clients to create tax-smart financial plans. These plans demonstrate how clients and their families can earn and protect capital, in ways which benefit them from tax management and overall wealth management perspectives, in good times and bad.
The tax-smart plans we craft alongside clients also include, where necessary, detailed succession plans. Like all independent tax professionals, I understand the emotional ties a business owner has regarding the company they sacrificed blood, sweat, and tears to build from scratch—as well as business owners’ strong concern for the needs and welfare of their customers.
Working with clients to not only find opportunities for tax savings on their businesses, but also craft comprehensive succession plans ahead of their retirement, will further increase the value tax pros can provide for clients—and attract more prospects from their local communities.
The peace of mind which succession plans give to clients who own businesses is priceless, and I personally understand how valuable this service can be for them. Nothing in life is guaranteed, and I’m not getting any younger. Like any independent businessman, I’ve often asked myself, “How can I keep my business successful when I am no longer able to work the way I can now?”
With this in mind, I began many years ago to make a conscious effort to involve our practice’s young professionals in every aspect of the business, and help them understand our role as financial coaches to our clients before and after Tax Day. By mentoring my younger colleagues, and bringing them into discussions with clients, I have cultivated a team of dedicated potential successors who I know share my dedication to clients, and remain committed to helping our clients—and our practice—achieve success from generation to generation.
I have no immediate plans to retire, but the peace of mind that comes from knowing my business and clients will be okay in my retirement is extremely comforting—and we have given this same comfort to the business owners we serve, an accomplishment which has elevated our tax practice in the eyes of new and existing clients and helped drive our ongoing growth.
Jack Oujo is Certified Public Accountant and Certified Financial Planner for Wall, N.J.-based Jack Oujo, CPA, Inc. (www.jackoujocpa.com) and an Avantax Wealth Management Advisor (https://www.avantaxwealthmanagement.com).
Please visit avantaxwealthmanagement.com for more information.