Merger: A radical solution to succession issues?

September 4, 2019

By Kreston CEO, Liza Robbins.

Benjamin Franklin supposedly once said: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

But the reality is, sometimes even the best plans don’t work out as expected…

Take the topic of succession planning, which we’ve been talking about lately.

Succession planning doesn’t always guarantee a successor will be in place when you’re ready to retire.

Things can (and often do) change over time…

Junior partners may adjust their plans and leave the firm, or be forced to through unforeseen circumstances. Or maybe you had a plan for promoting younger employees to middle management, but no clear contender for the lead role.

If there is no solid successor for leadership in sight, it’s easy to start feeling uncertain about the future of your firm…

This is where a merger might be a solid option to consider.

It doesn’t surprise me that mergers and acquisitions were a key theme at the fantastic CBIZ conference I went to recently in San Antonio.

Mergers are a viable way to ‘buy in’ talent and more contenders for leadership positions.

In fact, when other firms struggle with succession, it’s your opportunity to snap them up and groom their young talent to lead your firm in the years to come!

There are other reasons to consider mergers and acquisitions, as well.

As you know, the market is changing at breakneck speed…

Many firms are moving away from focusing on tax and audit, and towards growing their advisory services.

And whether you want to or not, you have to adjust… or risk being left behind.

With the market changing so fast, it can be difficult to find talent internally to create and grow advisory services.

Often, the quickest way to do it is to buy talent in.

Since it’s easier to compete when you are larger, it’s also a good way to grow and stay competitive.

I was really excited that the 600 people from CBIZ, plus the 12 other firms at the conference, shared this understanding of how the market is evolving and how accountancy firms need to change.

It really felt like we were on the same team!

One important take away from the conference was to proactively look for firms that want to be bought or to merge.

But you need to be strategic about which firms you approach.

For example, you’d want to look for firms that are a good cultural fit… ones that fill the gaps you have in skills, verticals, location and services… and those that align with your overall growth strategy.

Also, keep in mind that you don’t have to always buy the whole firm.

You can offer to purchase specific pieces of it, which allows you to bring in the talent your firm may currently lack.

At the conference, I was really impressed to learn that CBIZ have a head hunter actively looking for firms ready to sell – how’s that for focus on market consolidation!

This isn’t just theory.

One big trend I’m seeing right now, especially in the UK and US, is firms merging and consolidating.

If you want to remain a viable contender in a fast-moving market, you need to think out-of-the-box. And that might include considering merging with, or buying, firms with the right talent and tech to support you.

Mergers can get you there far quicker than organic growth ever will.

That’s one lesson learned by two Kreston firms in India who are in the final stages of their merger.

Their decision to merge wasn’t fuelled by a lack of succession planning. Rather, they each wanted to take a bigger chunk of the market, and a merger got them there.