During our annual meetings with clients, as we talk about retirement plans, we are asked about our own retirement plans and the future of BWFA. It’s a reasonable question. We emphasize long-term planning for our clients, and our clients have a right to expect that we plan for the long term, too.
We want to assure our clients that we are planning for BWFA to be here for a long, long time. We are now in the early stages of developing a succession plan that will enable our employees to continue as owners of the firm when the first generation of owners retires.
Currently, there are three owners of the firm, ages 62, 55 and 51. We will eventually expand the number of owners to at least four. In four or five years, some of us might choose to leave the firm, and start the gradual process of transition.
Under the succession plan we are creating, we will restrict ownership to employees. We believe that having BWFA absorbed into a large entity might affect the personal relationships that we have built with our clients and could result in emphasizing profits over service.
To help us prepare and implement this plan, we are taking three specific steps.
FIRST, we are identifying the future owners of the firm and making sure that everyone is fully trained well in advance of planned transitions. We have a superb team of professionals, each with deep experience and capabilities. By the end of this year, we expect to have outlined how these professionals will form the new team to lead the firm.
SECOND, we have committed to working with the consulting firm Moss, Adams to develop a multi-year, detailed transition plan. Moss, Adams is the premier consulting firm in our industry, and it has helped dozens of firms develop and implement succession plans. The firm’s experts will help us “cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s,” so our transition plan is rock solid.
THIRD, we have hired Perception, Inc., a Gaithersburg-Md. media relations and marketing firm, to help us define what is unique about BWFA. Through several branding and strategy exercises with Perception, we have been able to identify four principles that drive our actions and our conduct. This is what we stand for:
- Delivering the best solutions to our clients;
- Being responsive to everyone we deal with;
- Being totally transparent in the way we conduct business; and
- Making financial planning simple for our clients.
If you want to build a business that will last, you have to know what you are and what you stand for. You have to be able to say: These are the things that never change about us. And your actions have to prove it.
We think we have come a long way towards defining those special attributes, and we know we have the team in place to live up to our promises. We owe it to our clients—the people who have supported us over the years—to make sure that their families can count on us to be here for a long, long time.