CEPA Spotlight: Frans Tjissen


You can plan all kinds of things in life, reality often is completely different, and therefore it makes sense to be prepared for the unexpected.

As of August 1, 2019, I have been appointed as the CEO of LEA Global.

Whether or not I am prepared for the job, time will tell.

However, it is one of those moments that makes me sit back and daydream on how it all started.  Let me share this dream you.

Born in a very small village in the Netherlands, Europe, close to the German border, I grew up in a loving family.  My siblings and I had a very pleasant childhood and our parents taught us important values: honesty, integrity, and modesty.

After finishing high school, I had not yet found my passion in life, apart from my high school love Wilma, who is my wife of over 40 years.

One day I received some promotional material from the Dutch IRS in which they tried to attract students to a career as tax auditor. For the first three years, they organized a full-time training program that included additional training to become a Dutch CPA. What I really liked about it was that they paid a base salary from day one.

I worked at the IRS for nine years performing tax audits, training some junior staff, and becoming part of the young leadership team. Nevertheless, I became curious and wanted to know if there was another world out there.

This lead me to move on and start as a CPA in a firm called Bol International. In 1992, I became an equity partner and some years later, co-Managing Partner.

Our firm had a very strong culture and over the years our firms size increased to a total of four offices, seven partners, 180 staff, and apart from family businesses, we developed a stable international practice.

Part of our philosophy has always been that people perform best if they do things they like doing. Because of this philosophy, it is in the interest of the person, as well as of the firm, to split responsibilities and jobs in a way that aligns with one’s personal skill set and interests.

In accordance with our philosophy, we decided to share the Managing Partner role in between three partners. Each one of the partners took responsibility for the part that aligned best with their quality and passion.  As a by-product, I have always been able to keep my client relationships and to be honest, that has always been my true passion. Not the formal audit and tax issues, but consulting the owner, their family and the key employees. Making sure they can rely on and fully trust you. I have to say that over the years, I discovered the real substance behind the values my parents told me.

At the same time, I became continuously more involved with entrepreneurs that came into the phase of selling their business or transferring it to the next generation. I experienced the strong emotional impact and the occasionally huge effects on personal relationships. I noticed how formerly active business owners became lonely people. Since some owners completely ignored the fact that there would be a time in life that they wouldn’t have a role in the business anymore and finally experienced that the hard way. On the other hand, I learned a lot from other clients that always kept an open eye towards the world around them, personal and business-wise.

I spent a ton of time with these owners, their spouses, and kids to get to know these processes and learned to recognize each piece of the puzzle. Two years ago, I stumbled upon the Exit Planning institute and was fascinated that Chris Snider and his team had been able to bring all the elements of exit planning together in a completely rational and logical process. One sheet, provides a complete overview of every element involved in the exit plan.

I attended the CEPA program in Chicago 2017 and enjoyed every minute of it. Since then, I have used the process every single day within my client contacts and it has been a tremendous tool and help for me.

As I mentioned, the Dutch business culture is based on international trade. Therefore, in 2004 we became one of the European founding members of Leading Edge Alliance (LEA Global). For many years, I have been a European, as well as a Global board member of this wonderful and intriguing organization. Even after my retirement as Managing Partner in Bol International at age 57 (which was part of our exit plan to make sure we had partner positions available for brilliant young professionals), I stayed active as a board member. Throughout my life, I have attended multiple US conferences, and visited a lot of LEA firms all over the globe. The association has been very helpful for our firm to be able to service our international active client base with high quality audit, tax and business consulting services. Apart from that we shared a tremendous amount of best practices and learned form the best in class.

And now, as of August 1, a new phase in my professional live has started, being the CEO of this great organization.

It is big challenge for me, since LEA after 20 years is in a world that is changing and we will have to find the way to change also in a rhythm that fits and will keep us strong and challenged.

Frans Tijssen has been been a CEPA since the 2017 Chicago program. He exemplifies the role of Advisor of the Future through the qualities of his practice and his commitment to his clients.

CEPA Spotlight

CEPA spotlight features the accomplishments of exceptional thought leaders in the advisory community. Acquire a deeper understanding and knowledge base by reading the stories of some of the industry’s most perceptive experts.

Do you know someone who exhibits unique and remarkable qualities as an advisor? Contact Paige Koerper at pkoerper@exit-planning-institute.org to nominate them for the next CEPA spotlight.

More than a credentialing company.

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Official ‘Exit Planning’ Definition: Exit planning combines the plan, concept, effort, and process into a clear, simple strategy to build a business that is transferable through strong human, structural, customer, and social capital. The future of the business owner, his/her family, and the business itself are addressed by exit planning through creating value today.

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