CPA Firm Succession Planning: A Perfect Storm

The No-Nonsense Roadmap for Creating and Implementing a Bullet-Proof Succession Plan

By Marc Rosenberg CPA

The rock-solid process for creating and implementing a succession plan. The comprehensive step-by-step guide covering all of the issues, considerations, and details for firms of every size.

FREE U.S. SHIPPING by Priority Mail

You’ve got options!

Choose the NEW Print+PDF Upgrade option to start benefiting immediately with the instant download



Links to download your PDF will appear on the order confirmation screen after purchase and in your email receipt from
* Rosenberg PDFs are read-only – no printing, markup, reproduction, or further distribution. Downloadable to five personal devices.

Rosenberg, a widely acknowledged authority on succession planning, describes a perfect storm bearing down on CPA firms, brought about by the simultaneous impact of aging baby boomer partners, a never-ending shortage of staff with partner potential, and a tendency for CPA firm management to perpetually relegate succession planning to the back burner. Industry observers regard succession planning as the #1 endemic issue facing CPA firms today. And it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Many firms believe that succession planning starts and stops with leadership development. Developing future leaders is critical, but there are many other important areas to be addressed.


  • Challenges for older and younger partners
  • Doing the math
  • Assessment of existing staff
  • Leadership development
  • MP transition
  • Governance structure
  • Client transition best practices
  • Partner buyout/buy-in plans
  • Deciding on the preferred exit strategy


Succession planning is a very sobering topic. During several retreats I have led, this issue has literally brought tears to partners’ eyes. They start popping Prozac like M&Ms. Why? Because succession planning forces us to confront our own mortality. This is never easy – just ask your estate planning clients.

Before the recession, the AICPA’s survey of firms’ top practice management issues consistently reported succession planning as the #1 area of concern. More recently, recession-related issues such as bringing in new clients, client retention and fee pressure have pushed succession planning back to #5, but most industry observers regard it as the #1 endemic problem in the CPA profession. And it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

A “crisis” is an intensely challenging time when difficult decisions must be made. Sometimes, the enormity of the decisions paralyzes people like deer caught in headlights. This is the situation at many local CPA firms. Indeed, only about 30% of firms have formal succession plans in place, according to Jim Metzler, vice president for small firm interests at the AICPA.

Succession planning is the “perfect storm” of CPA firm practice management, brought about by the simultaneous presence of several turbulent forces.

– Marc Rosenberg, CPA


Chapter 1: How a Crisis Evolved

Chapter 2: What IS Succession Planning?

Chapter 3: Anxiety About Succession Planning

Chapter 4: Step by Step Approach

Chapter 5: Strategic Planning

Chapter 6: The Partners’ Specific Retirement Plans

Chapter 7: Overarching Initial Decisions

Chapter 8: Criteria for Partner Promotion

Chapter 9: Assessment of Existing Staff

Chapter 10: Developing New Partners

Chapter 11: Managing Partner Transition

Chapter 12: Partner Retirement/Buyout Plan

Chapter 13: New Partner Buy-In Plan

Chapter 14: Non-Equity Partners

Chapter 15: Client and Other Transitions

Chapter 16: Governance Structure

Chart: How governance changes as firms grow

Chapter 17: Mergers as an Exit Strategy

Chapter 18: Conclusion

Chapter 19: Partners: Get a Hobby!



CPA Trendlines commentator Marc Rosenberg is a nationally known consultant, author, speaker on CPA firm management, strategy and partner issues.

President of his own Chicago-based consulting firm, The Rosenberg Associates, he is the founder of the most authoritative annual survey of mid-sized CPA firm performance statistics in the country, The Rosenberg Surveyalso available here from the CPA Trendlines Store. He has consulted with more than 700 firms throughout his 20+ year consulting career.

Accounting Today magazine annually acknowledges Marc Rosenberg as one of the 100 most influential people in the CPA profession and INSIDE Public Accounting has repeatedly recognized him as one of the ten most recommended CPA firm consultants in the country.

Click here to see him on CPA Trendlines.

CPA Firm Succession Planning: A Perfect Storm