Passing the baton in a business ownership transfer requires a proper succession plan. To do it successfully, you must consider all facets - the logistical and legal as well as the human and relational. Both are equally important in making an ownership change. Read on for a comprehensive look at how to approach successful succession planning in all facets.
Before delving deeper into how to approach a successful succession, it’s important to properly define what succession planning means.
It is in its most basic form a plan for moving your business leadership from yourself to new owners or new management.
But it could also mean changing leadership throughout your business and bringing in a group of new leaders.
It could mean you alone, as an owner are stepping aside perhaps due to retirement. This plan would involve the continuation of your business under the leadership of new owners.
It can also include the evaluation of your current employees to determine who might be well suited to different positions or perhaps advancements.
It is in essence a game plan that will take your business into the future.
Now, onto how to do this successfully…
The first step in overseeing a successful succession is to meet with your team of professionals. This will include meeting with your attorney, accountant, and risk management partner. Business attorneys will ensure that all the appropriate Transfer of Business Ownership is completed properly and everything is aboveboard.
Keep in mind that depending on your business, whether it be an LLC Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, C-Corp, S-Corp, non-profit or other, each is different and demands a slightly different method of transition when succeeding. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that you speak with the professionals whose business it is to know what needs to take place as your first step of succession.
The next consideration you need to address when approaching a succession is the logistic side of the matter. This will include determining how you want to sell your business (if that’s your goal). Do you want to consider owner finance, or do you instead prefer cash or lender finance?
Determining this at the beginning of the process will make the selling process much easier. If you aren’t sure you want to outright sell your business, you could instead opt for the reappropriation of ownership among multiple owners, lease your business or transfer the ownership via bequests or gifts. Be sure to check with your attorney or accountant first on the tax implications of this relating to the size of the gift and other requirements.
Not to be forgotten among the legal and logistical factors, is the human element of a succession. The following are some of the notable areas you need to address, which involve the human aspect of a succession:
Therefore, to ensure that your employees don’t panic and abandon ship at the first hint of change this significant, you need to make sure you address any insecurities or fears and communicate with them about what they can expect, what will stay the same, and what might be different.
Be honest and upfront with your employees. Host meetings and allow them to ask questions, express concerns and share their hopes and dreams for the future of the company.
Succession can be a scary prospect for employees who remain at the company under new ownership or management. This is understandable as it's human nature to fear the unknown.
Having a good plan in place and even doing a soft roll-out of the plan can help negate any negative feelings your employees might have about the upcoming change. It’s also important to ensure that valuable clients feel comfortable with the change and are kept abreast of what’s going on. Succession doesn’t have to be scary if you approach the process the right way, with a good actionable plan in place.