Family Business Succession
Are your children ready to take over your business? The answer I usually get is something like “No, she has only been in the business for 10 years, she’s not ready to run a business.” Or, “He will get it eventually, but there is no rush.” Exit planning and succession planning are critical to a smooth sale and transition, but they are too often ignored until it’s too late, especially when it comes to family business situations. Are you burying your head in the sand because you are uncomfortable planning to leave the business?
You don’t have to leave tomorrow. At the same time, starting early will help you think through a variety of options to find a structure that best fits your needs. An early start will also provide enough time to talk through key issues with family, inside and outside of the business. The issues can be thorny ones when dealing with the family business, but time can bring everyone together.
Don’t leave a mess for your spouse, children and employees. We will ALL exit our business at some point, one way or another. The process of selling is very complicated, and it will take much longer than most owners expect. Family business transfers are especially complex.
Again, you don’t have to rush out the door just because succession planning begins. But your family and employees will be more engaged knowing that you are laying out a game plan. If they are not yet ready, start now and include a plan for them to get ready. You may still think of them like this, but they really may be more ready than you think.
It takes a huge toll on morale when your children lack specifics and any semblance of a timeline. We routinely hear from adult children of business owners who are beyond frustrated at the lack of a real plan as to how they will eventually start taking steps to succeed Mom and Dad. They don’t need it to happen next week, but they need to know the how and when. And, yes, what they need to do to show you that they are ready.
They may never be ready. However, getting an early start on talking about these issues will help you determine whether that is the case or not. You may find that they don’t want the family business, even if they would be capable. Either way, you need to know that as early as possible.
Get your family engaged in these complex issues. The right conversations will lead to the engagement that carries on your business legacy for years to come. Another significant benefit to family business succession conversations is that with a plan in mind, business value growth becomes a lot easier.
Let us know if a conversation about your specific succession planning situation would help you move forward.
David Shavzin, CMC
Exit Strategist – Value Growth, Exit Planning, Succession Planning
Founder and President, The Value Track, Atlanta, Georgia