Succession Planning Requires Smart Strategies

Posted on February 11th, by Hoberman & Lesser in Timely Articles.

Succession planning is important in any business, but it’s sometimes overlooked in family-owned operations. This is a big mistake. There are numerous former family-run companies that no longer exist due to poor or no succession plan.

The plan needs to be well thought out and it is best if it is discussed with everyone affected. Don’t just assume that a son or daughter will want to carry on the family business. Even if your children say they will take over, they may not have the true desire or have the business skills required to succeed and to continue a successful operation.

Consideration should be given to business and personal goals, as well as the plans of the next generation. Who has the most aptitude for leadership? Who wants to stay with the business?

In the case of multiple potential successors (for example, more than one child), the responsibilities that each person will have upon succession should be determined. It’s important that the details be worked out early, because, in the case of an unexpected death or disability, succession might occur sooner than planned.

You should address the involvement of the next generation. In some situations, the retiring family elder has adult grandchildren—some who may already be working in the business.

You want to make sure that the future leaders of the business have the proper training. There are several different options. One is having younger family members work in several different areas of the business. Another is having aspiring family business leaders get some experience in another, non-family business to learn alternative ways of doing things.

In order to achieve a successful transition, the importance of preparing for succession can’t be overemphasized.

Planning and transferring your business is a critical challenge. Some studies show that among family businesses, only about 30 percent succeed to the second generation and 10 percent into the third generation.

Sometimes, as planned retirement nears, elder family members don’t want to let go. This can cause resentment on both sides. Naturally, the elder family members want to see the business they built (or took over, if already a second generation business), continue to succeed as it did under their leadership. They can be concerned that the firm won’t flourish without their direction.

At the same time, the younger family members may think they can bring the business to even greater success if the older relatives would step aside. This is where a scheduled, gradual transition of management and leadership responsibilities from one generation to the next can benefit both generations.

As they turn over the reins of the business, elder family members can be compensated through preferred stock in the corporation. They can also look to stay involved in business—if not directly—through participation in industry groups and associations.

Such actions recognize the contributions of retiring members and help them recoup their equity. Meanwhile, the new manager and active relatives can implement their plans for the future.

If you have questions about succession planning, please contact us.