New NYSSCPA Business Exit and Succession Planning Committee Completes the ‘Planning Circle’

By:
Allison Schiff
Published Date:
Mar 24, 2011
When it comes to helping a business owner profitably leave his or her business, “there is nobody who could do it better than a CPA,” said Keith Lazarus, chair of the NYSSCPA’s new Business Exit and Succession Planning Committee.

The new committee, which was approved by the NYSSCPA Executive Committee in February, will hold its first meeting on April 22.

“This is a discipline whose time has come -- especially now that the baby boomer generation will begin leaving their businesses in a few years -- and we as CPAs should be there to help them,” said Lazarus. 

The purpose of the new committee and the impetus behind its formation, according to Lazarus, is to assist business-owning clients through “the biggest decision they will ever make” and to help CPAs in creating a roadmap that allows their clients to achieve their specific retirement objectives.

“There is one thing that is true for all business owners, no matter what their business is or who they are -- in fact, it’s guaranteed,” he said. “And that is the fact that every owner is going to have to leave his business at some point and it is up to us to help our clients do that successfully.

“Success doesn’t just happen by accident,” he said. “It’s planned.”

The new committee will also address both estate planning and personal financial planning issues, said Lazarus, in effect completing what he calls the “planning circle.”

“We’re going to bring awareness to the CPA community about how important succession planning is, because believe me, it is going to become a vital part of CPA practices and we need to be well-versed,” said Lazarus, who is planning to host an annual conference and a variety of educational sessions through the committee.

Business owners fail to take steps to implement an exit plan for a number of reasons, Lazarus said. Some may be too wrapped up in the day-to-day running of the company to focus on the future or may be ignoring the necessity of planning for the same reason people often put off buying life insurance or drafting their will.

Lazarus said CPAs need to be proactive when dealing with clients in need of succession planning advice.

“People feel uncomfortable talking about the end of their business, so they don’t ask us,” he said. “But a business owner isn’t going to know where to start if their CPA doesn’t talk to them about it, even though a CPA is the ideal person to talk to about their exit plan.”

Over the years, Lazarus has seen many horror stories result from a lack of planning -- paying too much in taxes, having the business undervalued, experiencing family disruption and being compelled to sell according to a forced timetable -- but he said it doesn’t have to be that way.

“It’s tragic how much money people leave on the table because they don’t have a plan and they’re not thinking about the future,” he said. “We need to convey to them that leaving their business can be a very complicated process, but if we help them approach it systematically it can actually be very simple.

“People are not going to know what their options are unless their CPA helps them and shows them the pros and cons of different strategies,” said Lazarus.

In addition to helping CPAs provide clients with another vital value-added service, the Business Exit and Succession Planning Committee is seeking to strengthen the CPA-client relationship. And, as exit planning is “not a product but an intricate process” that involves estate attorneys, financial planning experts and business valuation professionals, working on a succession roadmap can also serve as a valuable wellspring of referrals.

Succession planning will soon become a standard part of any “modern accounting practice,” predicts Lazarus, “just as surely as preparing taxes and financial statements is now.

“A CPA who really understands the benefits of planning is doing so much more for their clients than crunching numbers -- they’re helping their clients realize their dreams,” he said.

This, said Lazarus, is the true purpose of the committee.

“Who should join?” he said. “People who look towards the future of the profession, people who want to improve their practice and help their clients, people who want to stay one step ahead of the competition.

“Anyone who knows about this type of planning is going to be in very high demand,” said Lazarus. “People who are well-versed in this area cannot help but be successful.” 


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Interested in joining the Business Exit and Succession Planning Committee? Fill out the committee service application or contact Nereida Gomez, Sr. Manager, Committees and Administrative Services, by e-mail or at 
212-719-8358.

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