What's Unique About Your Firm?

Most owners want a succession that will leave the firm on a steady course following their original visions and maintaining their deeply held values. This means that you need a very clear picture of your firm’s culture. Most of the time, we’re not consciously aware of “culture” because it’s second nature to us. But in order to preserve the firm, you should understand very clearly what its culture is.

As a departing owner, you might have to make some decisions as to which values and attributes are really important to preserve, and which should be allowed to change with the new owners, whose vision may differ from yours in some ways. Consider the following issues.

  • Vision/mission. When you founded the firm, you probably wrote a vision statement. Does it still describe your hopes and dreams for your firm? If not, write a statement that does. If you don’t have a statement, write one now. Include what you do, why your services and your approach are unique, and how you measure success.
  • Values. What is really important to the people in your firm? Will they go to any length to serve your client? Do they value teamwork, or individual achievement? Can you count on their integrity? Are your values the same as theirs?
  • Business philosophy. What is your firm’s commitment to planning? Your marketing approach? Your philosophy about expenditure of retained earnings?
  • Management style. What is your management style? Are you a benevolent dictator or do you encourage others to participate in decision-making? What about the style of your successors? How do they react under stress?
  • Personnel practices. Include hiring, firing, layoffs, promotions, training, benefits and performance standards.
  • Workplace image and environment: physical plant, technological tools, and dress code.
  • The people: work ethic, age, length of service and overall spirit and morale.
  • The stature and reputation of your firm.
  • Plans for the firm’s future.


There’s no such thing as equal partners.

As you think about potential successors, remember that there’s hardly ever TRUE equality among partners. Partners may be equal financially, but in reality, one partner works harder or smarter than the other. If you don’t create an equal partnership in the first place, your firm will never get into the complicated and messy situation of trying to break one up.