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Exit Strategy: Succession Planning for your Small Business

Posted By Chris Prewit, Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Original article published by the Frost Brokerage Service

You have worked hard and overcomed obstacles to build the business you always dreamed was possible. With skill, ingenuity, even a little luck, you’ve succeeded in doing what few people achieve. While you’ve been concentrating on marketing issues, training and recruiting employees, and oh yes selling insurance, you probable may not have given much thought to the time when you will no longer be part of your business through retirement, becoming incapacitated or even dying or leaving for another reason. But business advisors say that neglecting to plan your own exit strategy would be a costly mistake. Why should you plan? Without succession planning, small business owners put their own future and the future of the business they have worked hard to build at risk. Lack of a comprehensive plan can have a negative impact on an owner’s future options, such as the business assets and value, employees and customers, tax obligations, even the businesses very existence. The stakes are so high that most of family and small businesses without a plan fail to make the transition because no one is willing or able to take on the ownership role. That is a sobering thought for small businesses owners who expect to hand over the business to a family member or trusted employee or who will need to sell their business at the best price to fund a future retirement or other enterprise. Perhaps it’s surprising, then, that only 50 percent of American small business owners have a transition plan, according to the Exit Planning Institute, and most of those with plans haven’t documented or communicated them to others. That is a critical omission and ideally, business owners should plan for their exit from the beginning, even if they don’t anticipate leaving for decades. There are three pillars of planning. Succession planning is not a cookie-cutter process with one model that fits everyone perfectly the professional advocate preparation based on “three key pillars”.  You must maximize the value of your business, prepare yourself personally and financially, and plan the act of your life.

Maximize the value of your business, what does that mean? Like many owners, you may want or need to sell your business someday. That can be complicated. Statistically, only 20 to 30 percent of small businesses on the market sell, and approximately 75 percent of owners who do sell profoundly regret the decision within 12 months. Business owners may have unrealistic assumptions about the value of their business. Believing that healthy sales and balance sheets automatically equate to a big return when the company is sold is not realistic. Potential buyers may not agree, especially if they can’t see concrete evidence of value. If selling your agency is part of your plan, ensure that your company is in the strongest possible position, financially and operationally. You will want to minimize areas of risk for your agency, such as preparing others to step into leadership roles, ensuring that essential employees want to stay when you leave, and diversifying your customer base and carriers.

Prepare yourself personally and financially with professional help. Planning a successful exit is a complex and sometimes delicate undertaking that can require the skills and specialized knowledge of multiple professionals. As much as 90 per cent of a typical business owner’s net worth is tied up in the agency and that can complicate the planning process. That’s why an owner should form a team of knowledgeable professionals to help the owner navigate all the issues. The professional recommends the services of a certified exit planning advisor, an attorney, tax advisor, CPA, banker and wealth advisor to review the owner’s personal assets, help explore all available options and ensure the owner’s wishes are accommodated.

Plan the third act of your life.

Building a business means decades of your life’s passion, identity and personal self-worth are linked to your agency. Although leaving that behind can bring changes in family relationships, personal wealth and free time, new realities may not be all you expected. Many agency owners incorrectly assume that they will retire happily to a life of golf, extensive travel and time with the grandchildren. Life’s third act often requires more for lasting fulfillment. Life coaches can help the retired owner determine the owner’s passions and match them with opportunities, such as serving on corporate or nonprofit boards, starting family foundations or even entering into other business ventures. This is your life enjoy it, you deserve it!!!

Tags:  advice  business  careers  retirement  strategy  succession planning 

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