Financial Planning for the Year’s End and Beyond



Photo by Daniel Smyth

The end of the year is approaching, which means it’s almost time for businesses to batten down the hatches and prepare for the fourth quarter. For most small businesses, this can be a trying time, if not handled correctly or punctually. In addition to the shorter term planning that can be crucial to this yearly assessment, there are other longer-term details that need to be taken care of for any business, like succession plans and the future of the company as a whole.

When businesses approach the year-end shuffle of collecting tax documents, expense reports and other financial records, it’s important that they’re collecting everything early enough to ensure the end of the year will be smooth sailing. Adam Davey, a shareholder and CPA for VonLehman CPA & Advisory Firm, says business owners need to begin their end-of-year planning and tax preparation as early as the start of the fourth quarter.

“We generally try to be as proactive as possible with every client,” says Davey. Although consistent client communication occurs throughout the year, Davey says “in the fourth quarter, we like to take the opportunity for more in-depth, in-person meetings. Discussing in detail how their year has been and projecting what the remainder of the year might be like is a crucial step in the planning process.”

It’s important for both the client and CPA or account team to sit down early on and accurately and thoroughly assess the year-to-date. From this assessment, analysis can be done, financial impact and tax implications can be properly understood and strategic planning can take place. It's at this point that business plans for the coming year can be formulated. Major expenses can be projected and assessed, external and internal issues can be reviewed and financial priorities can be formalized. “By meeting with our clients before the end of the year, we have more of an opportunity to assist them,” says Davey.

An issue that sometimes arises at year-end is a matter of succession. When a member of the leadership team of any company or organization wishes to transition out – through retirement, sale of their stake or other means, VonLehman assists in determining what steps need to take place by designing a succession plan. “Statistics show that most leadership teams at private companies – less than 25 percent – have a formal succession plan in place, and that’s a risk to any company or organization,” says Davey. “I’m always open to and proactive in discussions of succession with our clients, as having a formal plan helps assure the success of the business.”

 Succession plans are discussed between the account team and client through a process of determining what directions the company will take in the future. “When designing a succession plan for a business or organization, there are two things that need to be done to start the process,” says Davey. “Each situation is unique, but key elements of the process remain critical. First, the company must define its long-term goals. These goals directly impact whether new leadership is best chosen from existing employees, or if an external search may be required, which will lead to additional planning within the succession plan. Additionally, for example, if a company’s long-term goals indicate acquisitions or the potential of an external sale, these goals must also be factored into the content of an effective and comprehensive succession plan. The variables can seem endless, but each variable must be directly and completely addressed prior to finalization of a plan.”

Secondly, clients should collaborate early and effectively with all stakeholders in the succession plan throughout the process. “We’re one part of a team for each client,” says Davey. As variables continue to be recognized, assessed and planned for, VonLehman works with the company or organization’s board, attorney(s), banking team, financial advisors and others. “As part of a collaborative team, VonLehman works to assure that our client’s succession plan not only encompasses a smooth transition of existing leadership out of their role, but that new leadership will be smoothly transitioned into their role and properly supported for success throughout the transition process – and beyond,” says Davey

One of his responsibilities can be to help, from an accounting perspective, with challenges any new leadership or new owners may face after the transition. “We help them take their business plan and put it in place,” he says. “That’s the ‘and beyond’ portion, all of which is part of the succession planning process at VonLehman.” 

He adds that many businesses are nearing a transition point, and it’s always best to get out in front of the succession plan early. “Sometimes mergers and acquisitions are forced situations, simply because an owner decides he or she wants to get out of the business, and the succession isn’t fully planned,” he says. These situations aren’t always good for business, and can sometimes lead to failure of the business.

Whether a leader’s retirement is on the horizon or an aspiration, it’s never too early to prepare and groom the next generation. For family-owned businesses that plan to pass leadership onto a younger member, for example, grooming can begin at an even earlier age than non-family businesses. 

For businesses with no clear-cut successor, key management members can be considered and vetted, if they have the desire to step into a leadership role. “It’s in considering all the options that exist that leads clients to come to VonLehman for succession planning insight,” says Davey. “And, whether it’s at year-end, or any other time, we begin the discussion, a key discussion that may help determine whether a business succeeds or fails after a leadership transition.”

 

VonLehman has offices in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. You can reach them at 800.887.0437, by email at info@vlcpa.com or visit their website at www.vlcpa.com.