CEO Sunday: My Transition from Legacy to Leading Edge

By August 14, 2011

Written by Jody Padar, CEO & Principal New Vision CPA Group

How I turned my father’s firm into a productivity-packed, ultra-efficient fortress of solace.

I’m not Superman (woman), but I’ll admit that at times it took superhuman feats of strength (mostly mental) to transition my firm into what it is today–a technology-driven, highly efficient, and lucrative business. And when operations run super smooth, solace isn’t far behind.

It was about five years ago when I partnered with my father. At the time, I had no idea and no true vision for what I wanted my firm to become. I certainly never imagined that I would be acquiring new clients at an accelerated pace, or that I would have a dedicated, highly skilled staff in place. I also couldn’t envision emerging as a thought leader–providing educational content to the profession and speaking at nationally recognized conferences and events. But here I am today, running a next-generation firm.

Before I found my way back to the family business, I had reached a point where I was no longer content working for someone else. I’m sure many know this feeling. It was time to start my own firm–and work the way I wanted to work. I wanted to achieve balance between my personal and professional lives. So, I joined my father…and thus began my journey from legacy to leading edge.

Key Factors in a Successful Firm Transition

Transitioning a legacy firm is no easy endeavor. Aside from changes that involve new technology and procedure, there’s the monumental task of transitioning power–which is the first key factor. In my case, even though the retiring partner truly did want to begin succession of the firm, he found it hard to let go of the reins. For the first year, a low-lying power struggle took place. During this period, I accepted his advice, but continued to move forward with implementing change and making executive decisions. I certainly made my fair share of mistakes, but my partner supported me and helped guide me through some very dense trial and error. It wasn’t until the year two that the transition really began to sink in (for both of us) and I felt the power struggle dissipate–we had found a positive balance. Through it all, my partner and I maintained a positive relationship. This was critical because while my vision for the firm was needed to move it forward, my partner’s practical experience and wisdom were invaluable as well.

The second key factor was the ability to implement a whole new culture–and having others accept it. We were no longer working the way my partner (and some staff) were used to. New technologies, paperless processes, and best practices–everything was changing. And while improving the efficiency of operations is critical to running a new-age firm, not everyone will embrace a new culture right away. As the tech-savvy partner, I took the lead on implementing new systems and promoting the value of the changes being made. My predecessor partner, while not as technologically savvy, worked hard to maintain a positive attitude and embrace the changing culture…even when it was a struggle, and the urge to return to the “old way” of doing business seemed more alluring and safe.

Finally, the third key factor relates to our marketing and sales strategy. The best advice I received early on in the transition was: “You have to go out get your own clients.” To do this, I had to embrace the fact that I was no longer a technician working in a firm, but rather a leader working on my firm. I did not sit, head down, processing reports and statements. I had staff to do that. Instead, I put on my sales and marketing hat and created new business opportunities. The result has been exponential growth…and not because I merely inherited legacy clients–I went out and captured my own!

At the end of the day, I couldn’t be happier. I own a business that runs like a well-oiled machine. I still make mistakes, but you power through and hope to learn something from each blunder. Overall, I have installed a positive, highly efficient culture by applying advanced technologies and best practices. I’ve recruited qualified staff and properly assigned them to the “right seat on the bus.” I’ve adopted sales and marketing strategies to keep new clients coming through the door, and best of all I’ve created a comfortable balance between my partner and myself. It wasn’t an easy journey, but it was well worth every bump in the road. My fortress of solace…I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

Reprinted with permission by Intuit ProLine News Central

Jody joined her father’s firm four years ago, bringing her expertise in the areas of taxation, QuickBooks, and small business accounting. As one of the profession’s emerging thought leaders, Jody has transitioned New Vision to next-generation status–adopting advanced technologies and best practices that support web-based client services and allow the firm to run at peak efficiency. She is also an expert in the area of GREEN, vigilantly staying apprised of green-related government incentives and tax credits to ensure clients receive the proper deductions. Jody earned her BBA from Saint Mary’s College and MST from Northern Illinois University. Jody is also an adjunct professor at Oakton Community College and a contributing member of the Intuit Trainer Writer Network. Follow Jody on Twitter @JodyPadarCPA.