6 Loose Ends To Tie Up If You Own A Family Business


Photo: Kirsten Jennings

Business succession planning should be a priority for every family business.Sooner or later, everyone wants to retire. But if you own a family business, retirement isn’t just a matter of deciding not to go into the office any more. Besides ensuring that you have enough money to retire on, the whole question of what happens to the business becomes paramount.

Who’s going to manage the business when you no longer work the business? How will ownership be transferred? Will your business even carry on or will you sell it?

Have you been putting off succession planning? Use these tips for family business succession planning to get the succession planning process underway and ensure a smoother transition from one generation to another.

1. Start business succession planning early. 

Five years in advance is good. 10 years in advance is better. Many business advisors tell budding entrepreneurs to build an exit strategy right into their business plan. The point is, the longer you get to spend on family business succession planning; the smoother the transition process is likely to be.

2. Involve your family in business succession planning discussions. 

Making your own succession plan and then announcing it is the surest way to sow family discord. “Opening a dialogue among family members is the best way to begin the process of a successful succession plan — one where close attention is paid to the personal feelings, ambitions and goals of everyone concerned” (Grant Thornton, LLP 3) Look at your family realistically and plan accordingly. 

4. Get over the idea that everyone has to have an equal share. 

While this is a nice idea in theory, it may not be in the best interests of your business. Remember that management and ownership are separate business succession planning issues. It may be fairer for the successor(s) you have chosen to run the business to have a larger share of business ownership than family members not active in the business. Or it may be best to transfer both management and ownership to your chosen successor and make other financial arrangements to benefit your other children.

5. Train your successor(s) and work with them. 

How can you expect your successor to take over and run your business successfully if you haven’t spent any time training him or her? Your family business succession plan will have a much better chance of success if you work with your successor(s) for a year or two before you hand over the reins. For solo entrepreneurs, sharing decision making and teaching business skills to someone else can be difficult, but it’s definitely an effort that will pay big dividends for the business.

6. Get outside help with your business succession planning.

There are many professionals that can help you put together a successful succession plan. There are even companies that specialize in family business succession planning, who will facilitate the process of working through both family and succession plan issues. TalentC has provided advice to business on different approaches that they can take.

If you want to pass your family business along to the next generation, putting off business succession planning is the worst thing you can do. A good succession plan can ensure that you have the funds you need to retire and that the business you have built continues to thrive in the hands of the next generation.

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