7 Questions to Ask Yourself as 2011 Winds Down
You’re doing year-end planning for your clients. How about for yourself?
This may be the right time to consider for yourself the sort of life and business questions that you’re probably discussing with your clients.
Here are a few:
1. Am I happy and still have the passion for my work and clients?
While you are so busy all year around, when do you really have time to reflect? Sometimes a break like a vacation can give you that chance to reflect. Let me share a personal story. Mid-October I had hip replacement surgery. Ok, I accept the blame for continuing to play singles tennis into my 50’s (plus), but that’s not the real story. The real story is that I really couldn’t work for several days and had to work from home for a handful of weeks after that. What’s the bottom line? I couldn’t wait to get back into my NYC office, get back to state society committee involvement and similar. I also confess that I had my wife drive me to Long Island and wait while I moderated a panel discussion. Ok, this is bordering on compulsive, but let’s just say I still have a passion for what I do.
So, when you take a break this holiday season, even if it’s just a handful of days at home, go somewhere quiet with pad and paper (or iPad) and just write down how you feel about your work and business. If you feel very ambitious, start outlining how and what you might want to change.
2. Do I want this to be my last tax season? How many more Saturday (and Sundays) can I work, perhaps missing my grandkids soccer games?
Hmm. Ask yourself: If I weren’t working at all, what would I do? Do I have a combination of the below to keep myself quite busy and more important, content?
• Family activities – travel, grandchildren.
• Buddies to meet for breakfast or lunch.
• Sports if you are a golfer or tennis player.
• Involvement in your church or synagogue.
• Involvement in your town governance.
• Not for profit or charitable activities.
• Other volunteer activities.
If you don’t do these things now, trying to force them simply won’t be effective.
This list can go on, but the point is to paint of picture of yourself as the (hopefully) healthy and energetic newly retired guy or gal in town. What will you be doing all day?
3. Do I want this to be my last time renewing software contracts, malpractice insurance, hiring and training staff, dealing with fee discounting and last minute clients?
I know this sounds crazy, but some people actually like doing these things – the administrative side of running a CPA practice. But, for most it’s a necessary evil, and it becomes stressful on top of a load of client and staff issues.
Here’s some food for thought if you might want to keep working but not at such a high stress level: Keep those duties for your current firm and free yourself from all or a majority of client pressures. It could be a good first step toward slowing down for real.
4. Am I ready for a lifestyle change?
See No. 2 above and, I might add, speak those who know you well for many years whether close friends or professional colleagues. Ask them what they think as well as what their plans are.
5. Is this the year I sell, merge or bring in a junior partner?
This is a very big question and I’ll try to give some big picture guidance. Evaluate your current firm’s strengths and weakness and your short-, medium- and long-term potential. Be brutally honest with yourself and, if necessary, invest the time and a few dollars to get an expert to help assess your practice.
Prepare a very heartfelt list of pros and cons of maintaining the status quo, merging with an equal, merging up, bringing in a future successor and other alternatives. That would be a good starting point.
6. What will I get if I sell or merge – now versus later?
I don’t think there is much doubt that practice valuations will slowly continue to go down simply based on the likely number of potential sellers over the next 10 years or more. But, I don’t think it will be overly dramatic to the point where you feel the urge to sell just because everyone else is. It has to be a wise business decision. And valuation is in the eye of the beholder. The firm that doesn’t value write up work will be laughed at by the small firm that loves the 60% profit margin on this easy work.
7. Is now the time I start actively planning for my next steps?
In my opinion: Yes. And I say that with all sincerity whether you are 40, 50, 60 or 70. There are different things to worry about at each age, but at least an annual informal planning session is a must. I believe if you aren’t pushing ahead and trying new things each year to be better and more successful, then you will surely start going backward.
It’s year-end. Certainly a time to be thankful for your family, health and all of the good in your life, but also to reflect upon what you want your future to look like.
My sincere best wishes for a safe, peaceful and wonderful holiday season.
- Robert Fligel, CPA
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Robert Fligel, CPA
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