The American Institute of CPAs has formed an online Succession Planning Resource Center to help small and midsized firms deal with questions of how their firm should be managed in the future.

The online center provides information on a variety of succession scenarios, including selling or merging a firm, developing new leadership, transitioning with retiring partners, valuing the practice and simply turning off the lights.

Only 35 percent of multi-owner firms and 9 percent of sole-owner firms have a written succession plan, according to a January 2008 survey by the AICPA Private Companies Practice Section, yet the majority of respondents said that succession planning remains a significant issue. Still, that's better than the results of a 2004 survey, in which 25 percent of multi-owner firms and 8 percent of sole proprietors had plans in place.

The 2008 survey also found that 27 percent of the multi-owner firms were not training anyone for leadership roles, and 63 percent expect at least one owner to retire within the next five years. Twenty-nine percent of sole proprietors said they have no one to develop as successors, either because they were sole practitioners or did not feel any of their employees were capable of leading the firm.

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