Decision Vision Episode 106: Should We Think Outside the Box for Our Next Chief Executive? – An Interview with Marc Fleischman and Eric Majchrzak, BeachFleischman
When choosing a new CEO, should you consider unconventional options? How do you transition the CEO role to a non-founder? Marc Fleischman and Eric Majchrzak are in a management succession like this at their firm, BeachFleischman, and they joined host Mike Blake to discuss their own experience. “Decision Vision” is presented by Brady Ware & Company.
BeachFleischman PC is Arizona’s largest locally-owned CPA firm and a “Top 200” largest CPA firm in the U.S. The firm has over 200 client service and administrative professionals and provides accounting, assurance, tax, and strategic operations & advisory services to businesses (U.S. and foreign-based), organizations and individuals. The firm serves clients doing business domestically and internationally and specializes in a variety of Industry-related practice areas, including cannabis, construction, healthcare, real estate, manufacturing, hospitality, technology, nonprofit and professional service businesses. BeachFleischman has subsidiaries, including Pinnacle Plan Design LLC, a national provider of qualified retirement plan consulting, design, administration and actuarial services; MOD Ventures LLC, a virtual client accounting services and consulting firm; and Contempo HCM LLC, a payroll and human capital management company. Offices are in Tucson (headquarters) and Phoenix.
Marc Fleischman, CEO, BeachFleischman PC
Marc Fleischman is a founding shareholder and current CEO of BeachFleischman PC, an accounting and consulting firm with offices in Tucson and Phoenix Arizona founded in 1990. The firm has approximately 200 office and remote employees. Marc retires at the end of 2021 and is currently mentoring his replacement to share knowledge and experience.
Eric Majchrzak, Chief Strategy Officer, BeachFleischman PC
Eric Majchrzak is a shareholder and chief strategy officer of BeachFleischman PC. He is also the firm’s appointed CEO-elect and will assume the role in 2022. He joined BeachFleischman in 2012 and is responsible for the firm’s overall strategic growth initiatives, including innovation, service line development, M&A, joint ventures, institutional firm branding, market alignment, and community outreach.
Mike Blake, Brady Ware & Company
Michael Blake is the host of the “Decision Vision” podcast series and a Director of Brady Ware & Company. Mike specializes in the valuation of intellectual property-driven firms, such as software firms, aerospace firms, and professional services firms, most frequently in the capacity as a transaction advisor, helping clients obtain great outcomes from complex transaction opportunities. He is also a specialist in the appraisal of intellectual properties as stand-alone assets, such as software, trade secrets, and patents.
Mike has been a full-time business appraiser for 13 years with public accounting firms, boutique business appraisal firms, and an owner of his own firm. Prior to that, he spent 8 years in venture capital and investment banking, including transactions in the U.S., Israel, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
Brady Ware & Company
Brady Ware & Company is a regional full-service accounting and advisory firm which helps businesses and entrepreneurs make visions a reality. Brady Ware services clients nationally from its offices in Alpharetta, GA; Columbus and Dayton, OH; and Richmond, IN. The firm is growth-minded, committed to the regions in which they operate, and most importantly, they make significant investments in their people and service offerings to meet the changing financial needs of those they are privileged to serve. The firm is dedicated to providing results that make a difference for its clients.
Decision Vision Podcast Series
“Decision Vision” is a podcast covering topics and issues facing small business owners and connecting them with solutions from leading experts. This series is presented by Brady Ware & Company. If you are a decision-maker for a small business, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure to listen to every Thursday to the “Decision Vision” podcast.
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Intro: [00:00:01] Welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast series focusing on critical business decisions. Brought to you by Brady Ware & Company. Brady Ware is a regional full service accounting and advisory firm that helps businesses and entrepreneurs make visions a reality.
Mike Blake: [00:00:20] Welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast giving you, the listener, clear vision to make great decisions. In each episode, we discuss the process of decision making on a different topic from the business owners’ or executives’ perspective. We aren’t necessarily telling you what to do, but we can put you in a position to make an informed decision on your own and understand when you might need help along the way.
Mike Blake: [00:00:39] My name is Mike Blake, and I’m your host for today’s program. I’m a director at Brady Ware & Company, a full service accounting firm based in Dayton, Ohio, with offices in Dayton; Columbus, Ohio; Richmond, Indiana; and Alpharetta, Georgia. Brady Ware is sponsoring this podcast, which is being recorded in Atlanta per social distancing protocols. If you like this podcast, please subscribe on your favorite podcast aggregator, and please consider leaving a review of the podcast as well.
Mike Blake: [00:01:08] Today’s topic is, Should we think outside the box for our next chief executive? And this is, I think in some respects, a hot topic, I think more companies are thinking outside the box in terms of retaining their next chief executive, because industries are finding that their markets are changing so rapidly. And this is even before we get into a coronavirus discussion, which has, basically, just yanked the tablecloth and everything sort of come crashing down wherever it’s going to come down. But, you know, we’re seeing this before.
Mike Blake: [00:01:46] And it’s an interesting conversation. If you look at Ford, right? They got rid of Mark Fields, he was a lifer inside the company and all he knew was making cars – I don’t mean to trivialize that. Knowing how to make cars is hard, just ask Elon Musk, especially doing it at scale. But they replaced him with a software guy – a woman, actually, from Silicon Valley – because they have decided that the future of driving is on autonomous vehicles. General Motors has done something similar because they are making a pretty all in bet on electrification.
Mike Blake: [00:02:32] Now, sometimes it doesn’t necessarily go as well. Those of us who are old enough may remember when Steve Jobs was forced out of Apple in the late 1980s. They hired a Pepsi executive to replace him. And they brought out products such as the Apple Newton, and if you’ve never heard of it, there’s probably a reason for that. But, basically, that was sort of the Neanderthal iPad and it was ten years too early before the the supporting technology was really ready to to support that kind of device.
Mike Blake: [00:03:08] So, it doesn’t necessarily all work out. But it is an interesting and a courageous decision and, I think, in particular as we’re in an interesting time where demographics are dictating turnover. And in my world where I live and I do a lot of transaction advisory, we tend to think that that is going to lead to a change in ownership, where people are going to be selling their companies because they feel like they’re too old to run them. Interestingly enough, we’ve thought that for the last ten years, we thought there was going be a massive turnover of companies. And that actually really hasn’t happened the way that we thought it was going to be, because it turns out that, you know, a lot of people still have their marbles at age 70 and can run their company. And there’s also a lot of data to suggest that the least healthy thing you can do is retire. But that’ll be a subject maybe for another podcast.
Mike Blake: [00:04:04] But it also brings to mind another issue, which is at the forefront even of Brady Ware, which is succession. That ownership is necessarily going to turn over at some point. And in professional services, one of the big tests of staying power and, frankly, whether the firm has value is, whether or not you’re able to have a successful transition of power, basically, and still retain the things about the firm that make it useful and valuable today while still positioning itself for the new challenges and opportunities that exist for that firm at the time that the succession is taking place.
Mike Blake: [00:04:51] And so, you know, for those reasons, I think this is an interesting topic. I think it will resonate with a lot of people, whether you’re in that succession plan yourself, whether you are maybe subject to that succession plan, or maybe you’re thinking that’s five to ten years away. And if there’s anything I’ve learned about succession, I’m not sure it’s ever too early to start thinking about it. Certainly, ten years is not too early because as Yogi Berra is famous for saying, it gets late early.
Mike Blake: [00:05:19] So, joining us today are Marc Fleischman and Eric Majchrzak, who are the current and future CEOs of BeachFleischman PC out in Arizona. So, we’re going to get a really interesting kind of perspective here of the full spectrum of transition, if you will.
Mike Blake: [00:05:40] Marc Fleischman is a founding shareholder and current CEO of BeachFleischman PC, an accounting and consulting firm with offices in Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona. Founded in 1990, the firm has approximately 200 office and remote employees. Marc is retiring at the end of 2021 – this year – and is currently mentoring his replacement to share knowledge and experience. And that replacement is Eric Majchrzak, who is a shareholder and chief strategy officer of BeachFleischman. He is also the firm’s appointed CEO-elect, and will assume that role at the start of 2022. He joined BeachFleischman in 2012, and is responsible for the firm’s overall strategic growth initiatives, including innovation, service line development, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, institutional firm branding, market alignment, and community outreach.
Mike Blake: [00:06:32] BeachFleischman PC is Arizona’s largest locally owned CPA firm and a top 200 largest CPA firm in the United States. The firm has over 200 client service and administrative professionals and provides accounting assurance, tax, and strategic operations and advisory services to business, U.S. and foreign based, organizations and individuals. The firm service clients doing business domestically and internationally and specializes in a variety of industry related practice areas, including cannabis, construction, health care, real estate, manufacturing, hospitality, technology, nonprofit, and professional service businesses. BeachFleischman has subsidiaries including Pinnacle Plan Design, LLC, a national provider of qualified retirement plan, consulting design administration and actuarial services; MOD Ventures, LLC, a client accounting services and consulting firm; and Contempo HCM, LLC, a payroll and human capital management company; offices are in Tucson and Phoenix. Marc and Eric, welcome to the program.
Marc Fleischman: [00:07:33] Thank you for having us.
Mike Blake: [00:07:35] So, lots of ground we can cover today. And although we have a general direction where we’re going to go, we’ll see if it stays that way. But the thing that I think is going to be helpful for the listener and myself to understand the context is, what are the circumstances leading to this transition? Marc, since you’re the one who’s currently in the seat and you’re leaving, I’ll ask you to kind of answer that first. What’s happening that’s leading to this change?
Marc Fleischman: [00:08:09] I’m happy to. Under our governance policy, at age 67 – which I’ll be this coming December – I need to sell my shares back. So, I will no longer be a shareholder in the corporation. As a result, we deemed it not appropriate for me to remain as CEO. And quite honestly, you mentioned earlier about retirement maybe not being good, I’m going to find out how good it is or how good it isn’t. And plan on, maybe, staying on as an advisor to the firm and helping where they need it, if they need it. But, basically, getting out of the way and allowing Eric and the team to lead into the future.
Mike Blake: [00:08:48] So, I’d like to pause on that for a moment, because, one, 67 is interesting to me because it’s a little older than I normally see accounting firms have. At Brady Ware, it’s 65. Other places I’ve worked, it’s 65. But can you answer for me – and Eric might be able to chime in too – why do a lot of professional services firms have a mandatory retirement age?
Marc Fleischman: [00:09:12] I think it relates primarily to succession and the ability to allow, number one, the relationships that have been fostered for a number of years. We have to transfer those relationships to new people, younger people. Otherwise, the client will no longer have a service provider that they feel comfortable working with. So, it’s necessary to start early. You talked about succession, maybe ten years is long enough or not long enough. Basically, here, we believe in continuous succession. Whereby, we are constantly attempting to – I’m going to use the term – pushdown client relationships, transferring them to younger people, giving them an opportunity so that there is a continuing success of the firm going forward.
Eric Majchrzak: [00:10:06] I would add, Marc just addressed the client side of things, which is very relevant. On the talent side of things, on the internal side, it creates more space for future leaders to step up. And it’s a great way to retain top talent is to have that succession plan in place so that others can step up and lead a practice, lead a division, become a future leader. And that’s always been part of our culture here. So, both on the client side and on the internal talent side, both very important.
Mike Blake: [00:10:40] So, I’d like to go back in time then to the point at which you decided or where you arrived at the point where you needed to name that successor. How long ago was that? Was that six months ago, a year ago, two years ago? How long has that transition practice been in place?
Marc Fleischman: [00:10:59] We started the process back in July of 2019, so we’re talking over a-year-and-a-half ago.
Mike Blake: [00:11:06] Okay. And then, how long has it been known that Eric is going to be the next person up?
Marc Fleischman: [00:11:13] Well, we made the announcement internally this November, but actually the selection was a full year before that. The shareholders and the committee that selected him knew of it, but everybody else did not.
Mike Blake: [00:11:28] Okay. So, it sounds like that it’s going to be 2020 or maybe even 2019 BC, before coronavirus. And think back to that time when you were deciding who was the right person to take on this role and this challenge, talk to me about about how you viewed your own firm. I love to hear about when you took inventory of its strengths and weaknesses. What did those kind of look like to you?
Marc Fleischman: [00:12:00] Well, from my standpoint, I think we were a successful firm, having been founded in 1990. We had a one long term CEO that that served that position almost 25 years. And then, I replaced him naturally. I mean his name was Beach. My name is Fleischman. It was a natural for me to take over after that. And I guess, I would say, that having been involved with my partner and my good friend since I got out of college many, many, many years ago, I was Avis to his Hertz. And I was always practicing to become number one.
Marc Fleischman: [00:12:42] So, in 2019, we were still in a growth mode as we are today. We were considering rolling out new opportunities, new service lines, and realized that it would probably would make sense to spend a fair amount of time with regards to being able to mentor our new CEO in that role. Because Mr. Beach and myself had been really co-drivers of this practice for a number of years as far as running it. And no one else had really had too much opportunity to fulfill those duties. And so, it was going to take a long time to transition, regardless of whether it was a practice partner or a nonpractice partner.
Mike Blake: [00:13:30] And so, it sounds like this is the first time that a nonpractice partner is really somebody not named Beach or Fleischman is going to be in that seat.
Marc Fleischman: [00:13:38] Exactly right.
Eric Majchrzak: [00:13:40] No pressure. No pressure, right, Mike?
Mike Blake: [00:13:42] Well, and that’s why I want to ask you about, you know, does that change your calculus about how you approach the job? Did it give you any pause in taking the job? Because, you know, as they say in coaching, you don’t want to be the guy that follows a guy. You want to be the guy that follows the guy that follows the guy. You know, did that give you any pause?
Eric Majchrzak: [00:14:05] You know, only to the extent that both Bruce and Marc are loved within the firm, significant shoes to fill, so the bar was set very high. And that’s never necessarily a position you want to walk into, where the bar is so high already to begin with, right? But I have to say, I think it’s a blessing because they have created a firm and a culture that’s committed to growth, that’s committed to clients, committed to our own people internally. And I can’t think of a better circumstance to step into this role than what we have here.
Eric Majchrzak: [00:14:45] During the time when we were going through the search process and the transition process back in the second half of 2019, there was significant change happening here. I mean, we have launched two of our new ventures, two brand new subsidiaries or two companies. We’re going through a lot of transformation on the technology side. We’re shifting our business model away from the hourly billing model. We’re entering new markets. So, there was just so much change happening. And, with change comes opportunity, of course. So, that was kind of the environment that we were looking at.
Eric Majchrzak: [00:15:29] And by the way, we’re no different than any other firm. Other firms are grappling with the same issues of innovation and disruption and that, so I just feel we’re in a really good spot to navigate through this.
Mike Blake: [00:15:45] Well, we certainly are. But what’s interesting in how you described the state of the firm, if you will, as the succession decision was taking place, everything you described to me was a business issue that could impact any business, whether it is an accounting or whether it was in manufacturing paper clips.
Eric Majchrzak: [00:16:07] Agree.
Mike Blake: [00:16:07] And I wonder and I suspect that that’s one of the reasons that may bring somebody in who’s not a practitioner of accountancy or one of the specific services as a viable, maybe even an optimal fit, because you weren’t trying to figure out how to get tax returns out more efficiently or figure out how to manage audit risk or whether you can take on public company audits or something. It is much more kind of – I hate to say garden variety – but really garden variety business stuff.
Eric Majchrzak: [00:16:38] Yeah. And in my case – and maybe the committee and Marc thought about this – the firm is my only client. I get to work on the business 100 percent of my time, because I don’t have a client list. I’m not serving clients externally. I get to work on the business. And I think because of the fast pace of change, that’s a good spot to be in where I can dedicate all of my time on anticipating change, anticipating our needs, and not being reactive.
Mike Blake: [00:17:14] I suspect – and I’d love you to comment – I think there are a lot of positives about that. One, you’re not distracted by a book of business. Two, you don’t have to worry about trying to regain that book of business if you then leave that role but want to stay in the firm, as can happen with CEOs. And, you know, something I talk about philosophically and it doesn’t always meet with a lot of receptivity, you know, I think partners should have the fewest billable hours in the firm anyway because you need that time to work on the business, and you’re set up in a way. So, I can’t fill out somebody’s tax returns anyway, so I may as well go work and make the firm more valuable.
Eric Majchrzak: [00:18:00] I know. That’s a great point. And Marc can, maybe, comment on the conversations that were happening internally at that time about just that, about wanting to have that person ultra focused on the business of the firm and where the accounting profession was headed. And what we need to do, the decisions today that we have to make that are going to align with the future exploration, and what that looks like.
Marc Fleischman: [00:18:31] It was kind of interesting the way we went about it. I mean, we created a committee of about eight shareholders from different disciplines, all of whom had decided that they didn’t want to put their name in the hat. We then asked for people to put their name in the hat. We had them go ahead and write us a little narrative about why they felt they were qualified. We went ahead and did some psychological testing to see how they matched up with myself and Mr. Beach, what their strengths and weaknesses might have looked like in comparison to ours. We went ahead and had an interview process with each one of them. And from my standpoint, it wasn’t even a question as to who was the most qualified and why.
Marc Fleischman: [00:19:25] Eric shined compared to my other partners, who I love very much. And they are my partners, so I am married to them from a financial sense. But I realized that Eric’s background and what he does every day made him uniquely qualified to take the position, number one. And number two, from the CPA firm standpoint, it wasn’t going to be we have to transition $1 million or 2 million book of business to somebody else to handle so that the next CEO would be able to have fewer billable hours and focus on running the business.
Mike Blake: [00:20:03] So, in those internal discussions with that committee, was there expressed any concern that, you know, “But Eric’s not a practitioner”. You know, was there any concern?
Marc Fleischman: [00:20:19] Oh, yes. Absolutely. I mean, we, as CPAs, we know everything and we know it best, right? And we work on our clients. We know how to do it better than anybody else. How could somebody who doesn’t do that understand what we do? But Eric’s been in the CPA profession, just not working on a multitude of clients, but one client, whether it’s with us or his predecessor firm, his whole accounting firm career. So, you know, he does understand what we do. We’ve developed a process here over the last – what will be – over two years of him learning more about what his partners do on a day-to-day basis, providing excellent quality service to clients and being involved with the community, and also training the new leaders of the firm that are going to come up behind him and everybody else.
Mike Blake: [00:21:21] So, if I understood you correctly, it sounds like you considered exclusively candidates that were already in the BeachFleischman house.
Marc Fleischman: [00:21:32] That is correct. We preferred to do that because we believe we have a culture that we want to be able to be easily sustained and built on. And feeling that if we brought an outsider in, we just don’t know what the ramifications might be. They could be great, but they could also be destructive. And to the extent we could find a qualified individual that’s already living under our roof, we were very happy with that possibility that being the decision.
Mike Blake: [00:22:02] And I think that’s an important point, because, you know, how far you go in terms of bringing in an “outsider” and Eric is kind of a tweener, sort of an inside outsider or an outside inner – I’m not sure which way I’d go with that. But, you know, as I mentioned a couple of examples in the intro, there are some firms that just decided they’ve got to go really outside. And I think what’s driving that is because they feel like there’s some massive trend upon which they must capitalize. Or there’s some massive existential threat that just cannot be handled with the internal firm culture. You know, with you, it seems like you prized quite a bit of continuity. And I want to be clear, some people may hear that and think that means complacent. I don’t think that’s what it means. It means exactly what it means, which is that continuity of culture is important.
Marc Fleischman: [00:22:55] Well, I think that, honestly, for success in a business like ours, culture is key. And if you disrupt it, you create earthquakes that you don’t know what buildings you may have built that are going to fall because of disrupting your culture.
Mike Blake: [00:23:15] So, I like both of you to kind of answer this next question if you can, because I think you both have different perspectives on the same thing. And that is, Marc, as the firm was considering Eric for this role and as Eric was considering taking it, was there a particular skill set or area of expertise that, Eric, you did have that made you sort of the right person for this role at this time?
Marc Fleischman: [00:23:45] Well, I’ll go first, and he may echo what I say. But, you know, marketing is key. We cannot live on our laurels. We have to be able to grow. And as a growth leader and a strategy leader, he had the the natural areas that we were looking at to be able to move the firm forward as we go into the unknown abyss of what the world is going to look like going forward, right? With all the transition and the fast growth that’s taking place in our particular world here of accounting firms, it’s necessary to be able to be a forward thinker and look towards what the future can bring before the future brings it to you. And so, I think he had this natural perspective being in the marketing area to be able to have those skills and traits and be able to exhibit it and lead the firm forward.
Eric Majchrzak: [00:24:50] Yeah. And I have a broad definition of marketing, which is perhaps even textbook, but there are 4Ps to the marketing mix. And so, it’s not just about promotion, and advertising, and social media, and lead generation, but there’s also product and service development, pricing, and business model. There is placement replace, which is about distribution channels and how you deliver that service. And, really, I’ve been working on all 4Ps of the marketing mix for my career.
Eric Majchrzak: [00:25:20] So, I think maybe some firms consider marketing just that fourth P, promotion. And along with that comes, you know, competitive pressures. You’re looking at disruption. You’re looking at trends in technology. I’ve done my best to stay in tune with where the profession is headed and what the risks are, and articulate that to the folks in my firm. So, I think that’s what I brought to the table, because everybody in our profession is talking about how firms now need to diversify, we need to get away from compliance, how we need to be consultants, how we need to be launching new practices and service lines and industry groups. And that stuff that I do every day working with my colleagues here, and so I have a level of comfort dealing with discomfort. Which I think is something that future leaders are going to have to get used to, is being uncomfortable a good amount of the time.
Mike Blake: [00:26:33] So, that’s a very interesting word, and a word with a lot of depth to it. So, I like to follow that up then with this question, do you agree with me, you are accepting a place that is not necessarily all that comfortable. There’s some comfort level, I get it, you have a history with the firm. You understand the firm. Obviously, you have the blessing of the leadership. But it’s not the same thing as, say, a lateral move to take another role that’s like yours, maybe let’s say, a bigger company. Is that fair to say?
Eric Majchrzak: [00:27:08] Yeah. I would say that’s fair, for sure.
Mike Blake: [00:27:11] So, how did you get comfortable as a candidate? As someone who is, obviously, a responsible steward of your own career that this was the right move? And in doing so – and I don’t want to be specific. I wouldn’t be that prying. It’s not necessarily be that specific – I’m curious, did that lead you to think about your terms of employment in a different way than you might have thought about your terms of employment had the move been more, you know, within the typical comfort zone?
Eric Majchrzak: [00:27:51] That’s a good question. I’ll address the earlier portion of your comment about being uncomfortable. I don’t know that even at this stage that I’m comfortable with the idea of being CEO. But I know it needs to happen. I know that the firm is going to be going through change that’s going to make a lot of people uncomfortable. I just feel it’s a job to do. I already felt the burden of a lot of these issues we’re talking about, about sustainability, about growth. So, it just seemed to be a natural transition for me to go from chief marketing and strategy officer to chief executive officer in terms of, you know, is it the right move for my career?
Eric Majchrzak: [00:28:45] You know, I feel like with a solid team in place, great people around me, a common vision, it’s going to make it that easier. In terms of having a special kind of agreement in your employment arrangement, I think that’s probably more relevant to, like we mentioned before, when you have an accountant or a partner that has a book of business with clients and they have to transition those clients away. I don’t have that. But what I do have, and I think there’s a general understanding, is, I am still going to be directing the strategic growth and marketing initiatives of the firm even as CEO. So, that is essentially my fallback where a lot of accountants would have some limited client where I’m still going to be working on guiding the firm where we need to be in the future, launching new growth initiatives, institutional branding, that kind of thing. So, I just gave you a lot to ponder there, but those are the things that kind of go through my head.
Mike Blake: [00:29:57] Yeah. I mean, that’s good. I mean, that’s exactly the kind of information we try to get on this podcast. So, I appreciate you giving us a lot. And I asked you a really hard question, so it’s fair that the answer is hard too. So, you’ve been in this transitional role, I’m guessing, for about 18 months, give or take. So, in that role, how have you found sort of the practical on the ground reception? Have people been wary? Have they been welcoming? Have there been areas of even obvious resistance? What has that looked like? What have you picked up either from direct cues or even informal body language, nonphysical cues? How’s that going?
Eric Majchrzak: [00:30:46] I mean, I feel I have been welcomed into the room. I certainly feel supported and I am being supported. I think there’s certainly no shortage of ideas and opinions, which I get a lot of those coming my way nowadays, maybe even more so than I did in my chief marketing and strategy role. And it’s good, because it’s all the things that – some of the things we need to be thinking about, having a holistic approach to governing the firm.
Eric Majchrzak: [00:31:21] You know, there’s a lot of folks commenting about how things aren’t so linear anymore and that competition is coming from all different angles. So, almost like an asymmetrical kind of approach to governing a firm. And I think that’s in our dialogue, we’re talking about it a lot. It’s in the language that we use. So, in that sense, I feel that the firm is identifying and my colleagues are identifying the issues at stake, which makes me feel pretty good. I don’t feel isolated in that sense. I do feel like we’re on the same page. Now, we may disagree with how to get there. But I think all in all, we have the same common vision, we have the same understanding of the issues at stake. And I think that’s important.
Mike Blake: [00:32:16] So, how are you two working together now, Eric and Mark? I mean, is it a de facto? I can see a lot of ways it’s working. Is it a de facto dual CEO role right now until the end of 2021? Is it still more of a master-apprentice kind of relationship? Something else that doesn’t come to mind that you describe differently? What does that look like between the two of you right now?
Marc Fleischman: [00:32:42] I would describe it as a mentor-mentee relationship, where I’m available to Eric 24/7, seven days a week, whenever he wants to reach out, whatever he wants to talk about, I’m there. I try to include him in in meetings where I think this is something maybe he hasn’t been exposed to, whether it’s dealing with insurance issues, banking issues, setting goals for partners. We had our goal setting session last month and he sat in all of the goal setting sessions that I would typically sit through with the partners, whether it’s the tax partner-in-charge or the A&A partner-in-charge also sitting in there.
Marc Fleischman: [00:33:29] So, he’s involved in everything I do other than a little bit of client work that I do, which no one wants to be involved in because it’s divorce work. So, you’ve got to be crazy to do what I do, and another reason that 67 is a good time to retire, because 65 probably would have been good, too, to get out of that type of work.
Marc Fleischman: [00:33:51] But in any case, I think that it is more mentor-mentee than anything else. I still sign the important stuff as necessary for the firm. But I think everybody is accepting that Eric is in his master’s degree program, and soon he’ll go through a quick doctorate, and then he’ll be ready to take on the world.
Eric Majchrzak: [00:34:16] And there is some structure behind that arrangement – and by the way, that’s a great place to be – and, Marc, literally, does have an open door policy. And I knock on his door several times a day to go in there and ask him his perspective on something, or ask him a question, or just to do an update. But we’ve had for a while now a standing recurring meeting where we meet on a regular basis, I did take the opportunity to kind of map out what I thought the transition should look like. Marc gave me his feedback on that. I attend an external managing partner, CEO Bootcamp, that I’m in right now. I am also making an effort to talk to CEOs and managing partners of other accounting firms and other businesses that are not related to accounting and just having a sounding board and a network of support and people that I can count on. And so, it’s all of that. And it’s been great. I couldn’t be happier with that process.
Mike Blake: [00:35:25] Eric, I think what you just said is interesting. And for it’s worth for me, I think it’s really smart, the fact you’re going outside and looking for different perspectives, both within the industry and outside. What is the most frequent question you find yourself asking? Or if that doesn’t jump to mind, what’s the most frequent piece of advice you’re hearing?
Eric Majchrzak: [00:35:49] Boy, that is a good question. You know, a lot of people are commenting and I agree with this, that, you know, you really have to govern with a shared set of core values and beliefs, so mission, vision, values. And I strongly believe in that. So, using those elements as the core tenets of who we are, the purpose of our firm, which will help us and help me make decisions in the future there’s a fork in the road and we’re not sure which way to go. I think part of that is going to be my job and part of that is going to be, you know, understanding what we’re all setting out to accomplish, and then choosing the path that gets us there. But the top down approach, the tone from the top is very important. So, I’ve been hearing a lot about that.
Eric Majchrzak: [00:36:49] I’ve also been getting some advice just about taking care of myself, making sure that I stay healthy, that I exercise, that I can have moments to clear my mind, and to think, and to do that kind of thing. So, I’ll have to work a little bit harder with that. And there’s a few other things in there. But, I would say, those are the main bits of advice that I’ve been receiving.
Mike Blake: [00:37:21] So, so far, you’re 18 months into this journey and, give or take, you’ve got about ten-and-a-half months left in the transitional part of the journey. What have both of you learned along the way that might be good advice to our listeners who may be thinking about a similar model to their executive succession?
Marc Fleischman: [00:37:40] Well, I would say to the CEOs out there that are going to be transitioning out, don’t be afraid of what the future is going to bring, embrace it. And be open to the ideas of your successor, because their ideas are extremely important to even your final education in your role. There’s nothing better, from my standpoint, to be able to say, “When I leave here, I have no fear of the success of this organization, because I’ve done everything I can and look forward to the next steps of whatever that brings for me.”
Marc Fleischman: [00:38:28] As far as Eric is concerned, I think what I’ve learned so far is we made the right choice. We’re lucky to have had an opportunity to have somebody like that internally in our organization. And I also would say that I never thought I’d be able to be a teacher. And, now, I’m finding that it comes easy and it’s fulfilling to be able to share ideas and then hear what comes back from Eric, because, obviously, his upbringing was different than mine as far as professional services are concerned. And I love hearing his perspective on things.
Eric Majchrzak: [00:39:08] Yeah. Thanks for those comments, Marc. I’ve learned a bunch of things. One is, that we have to give each other a lot of latitude on the pace and empathy during the transition process. So, just really identifying with each other, I think, is a challenging time for both of us, actually, maybe for different reasons. The other thing I learned, that by going through this process, it’s actually a bit of an opportunity to document and develop a transition process. You know, Marc mentioned, he was the likely and the logical successor to Bruce Beach. Me, being the first non-founder CEO, we got to map out what the transition process looked like. And I think we can leave it behind for the transition I’m going to go through in another 15 years down the road. So, there’ll be a framework there for people to follow.
Eric Majchrzak: [00:40:17] And I would also say, just looking at all the things that we’ve been covering in this process, it helps you identify opportunities. I mean, Marc, think about all the opportunities that we’ve identified just for things that we can be doing helps us address, maybe, some challenges. So, all in all, I just think it’s a great process to kind of redefine and agree upon what we want to be. And that’s always a good thing to go through.
Mike Blake: [00:40:49] We’re talking to Marc Fleischman and Eric Majchrzak of BeachFleischman PC. And the topic is, Should we think outside the box for our next chief executive? A question I want to get to, I’m curious, has anything about this process surprised you? Is there something that you thought this would be like going in and it turned out to be different than what you were expecting?
Marc Fleischman: [00:41:15] I guess, I didn’t have any preconceived notion of what this was going to look like going in. I think, maybe, what surprised me the most was how easy it’s going. You know, change is hard, always. Sometimes, you know, especially if it’s change you don’t want, it’s brought upon you. I won’t say that I don’t want to be able to move on to whatever life is going to look like post being the CEO of BeachFleischman. But it wasn’t something that I may have necessarily chosen to do, but it’s the right thing to do. So, here, I think that it’s been really quite a pleasure to be able to experience this with Eric and the rest of our management team, which we pretty much run our organization as a team. We have a leader, but many decisions are made collaboratively and collectively. So, I’m happy that it’s been so painless up until now.
Eric Majchrzak: [00:42:19] Yeah. I have to agree with that. Knowing a lot of firms out there and transitions that other firms have been through, doing a lot of reading, I know that these can be really trying times and they can be difficult transitions. And, you know, maybe I have that in the back of my head that there’s going to be much more friction than what there actually is. And so, I just think that would probably be the biggest surprise. But it’s been enjoyable. It’s been a great learning opportunity. And I think other people are excited, too. So, all in all, it’s been a great experience to go through this. And, gosh, but the documents kind of the process as we go along, I think is going to be helpful for a way that a future succeeding CEO can go through the process.
Mike Blake: [00:43:24] So, I’d like to offer an observation that I love your comment on, because one thing, this transition that you’re doing is a pretty long one, I think, by most standards, right? It’s not British royal throne long, I mean, Prince Charles has been waiting about 50 years or so to become King Charles III of England. I don’t know if they’ll ever do that. But to be sort of in the wings for two-and-a-half years when all is said and done, that’s a long time to kind of wait and kind of get that seat where you get to take the training wheels off and really run the job that you’re training for. And, to me, it speaks to a certain level of humility. It speaks to a certain level of, at least, being able to subordinate your ego, if not outright just not having a big one. And I wonder if that’s either explicitly or sort of backdoor implicitly part of the process as to why you have such a high level of confidence this is going to work. Or if I’m just playing amateur psychologist and I should just shut up and never say things like that again.
Marc Fleischman: [00:44:39] Well, I guess from my standpoint, you know, I think you’ve got to check your ego at the door. And this, I think, goes through being able to have a successful partnership or relationship in any professional services firm. Of my 45 years of observing law firms, accounting firms, architects and engineering firms, regardless of the leader, everybody thought they were a leader and everybody thought they were the most important person in the firm. And, often, that’s what breaks them up. That’s what we try to avoid here as much as we always can to make sure that your ego doesn’t get in the way of decision making. And so, although, it probably has in my past and probably will again maybe tomorrow, I try my best to not let that get in the way of anything we do here. And I think that is – you know, Eric is the one that’s waiting in the wings, so his comment is probably much more relevant than mine.
Eric Majchrzak: [00:45:43] Yeah. I think, definitely you have to be mindful of the trappings of ego. It’s not about me, it’s not about Marc, it’s about the future of the firm. And so, we just have to find a way to work together, to collaborate, to put our firm in the best position moving forward. And you know what? A two year transition is not going to work for every company and it’s certainly not going to work for every accounting firm. I’ve seen transitions that were, you know, six months out, a year out. I don’t know what the answer is, but, for us, this seems to be working and it’s a way to do it.
Mike Blake: [00:46:31] Guys, we’re running out of time, but there’s more ground that we could cover than we realistically have time for. And I realized that I’m taking up not just one, but two chief executive’s time here effectively. If people want to learn more about this topic, get your insight, ask a question I didn’t have a chance to ask, can they contact you to follow up? And if so, what’s the best way for them to do that?
Eric Majchrzak: [00:46:57] Sure. I mean, Marc and I are both on LinkedIn, they can definitely search us there. Beachfleischman.com has a Contact us form, you can request a conversation through that form. You can also message us on Twitter, we’re @BeachFleischman. And we have a Facebook page. So, really, there’s many ways you can get a hold of us. Marc, I don’t know if you want to add to that.
Marc Fleischman: [00:47:31] I’m very old fashioned, I still use a phone. My direct dial number, 520-618-7918. Call and leave a message if I don’t pick up.
Mike Blake: [00:47:43] That’s so retro. People actually use smartphones to make and receive telephone calls. That’s extraordinary.
Marc Fleischman: [00:47:49] I know. I haven’t learned not to do it.
Mike Blake: [00:47:52] I want to see if there’s an app that will let me convert my keypad to an old rotary dial phone, like a virtual rotary dial, just to mess with my kids.
Mike Blake: [00:48:04] Well, thanks, guys. That’s going to wrap it up for today’s program. I’d like to thank Marc Fleischman and Eric Majchrzak so much for joining us and sharing their expertise with us. We’ll be exploring a new topic each week, so please tune in so that when you’re faced with your next business decision, you have clear vision when making it. If you enjoy these podcast, please consider leaving a review with your favorite podcast aggregator. It helps people find us that we can help them. Once again, this is Mike Blake. Our sponsor is Brady Ware & Company. And this has been the Decision Vision podcast.