Family Business Archives - TAB Corporate

6 Succession Planning Tips for Baby Boomers

Succession Planning for Baby Boomers

Unless you’re a serial entrepreneur who started a business with the sole motive of selling it, passing the reins of your company to someone else can take an emotional toll. If you happen to also be part of America’s largest generation of retiring business owners—the baby boomers—finding the right successor has probably been on your mind in recent years.

Perhaps you’re a family business owner deciding how to fairly split assets and responsibility among heirs. In a recent feature for Family Business Magazine, editor Barbara Spector keenly observes some telling statistics from The Alternative Board’s survey of small business owners.

“Less than half (43%) of the family business owners who participated in the TAB study say they are satisfied with their succession plan. About a quarter (24%) admitted to being dissatisfied with their plan, and 33% said they don’t have a succession plan.”

Spector postulates about the 62% of respondents who doubt their business will even remain in the family when they exit, “Perhaps these business owners plan to sell because they doubt their family members are viable successors.”

While it’s estimated that 80% of businesses worldwide are family-owned, there’s a 20% chance yours is not. You may simply be a hard-working sole proprietor seeking a worthy buyer for the company you worked so hard to build. Regardless of who the next owner of your business will be, your focus should be on making decisions now that will set you up for the comfortable retirement you’ve earned.

Executive business coach John F. Dini is the author of Beating the Boomer Bust, which focuses on the unique challenges faced by retiring baby boomer entrepreneurs. Since he’s an expert on succession planning, we asked him the following questions to help provide you with a better exit strategy for your business:

1) What should you consider when choosing a successor?

A successor is often very different from a second in command. For a key employee, you want skills that compliment yours. For a successor, they should be more similar. Often, however, founding owners had the opportunity to learn different aspects of the business as it grew. It may not be reasonable to expect someone who is up to speed in as many areas as the seller currently handles.

2) How can you determine the amount of money you should take when you “cash out”?

Valuation is determined by the industry and the type of buyer. Appraisals are well worth the cost. Many owners lose good opportunities because they value their businesses based on what they need for retirement, what they heard about someone else at a trade show, or because they misunderstand the formulae (for instance, “All small companies sell for five times revenue.”) That’s simply not true.

3) What documents should be part of a succession plan?

If you are planning an internal succession (to family or employees) you will need new employment agreements, stock buy/sell documentation, probably a promissory note defining conditions of payment and security, and perhaps a non-qualified deferred compensation plan for the seller, the prospective buyer, or both.

4) How can you impart the values and culture of the business you’ve built to the next generation?

That is a broad leadership question. In relation to succession, understanding why you run the business the way that you do should be a prerequisite to consideration as a successor.

5) How can you begin stepping away from the business during succession planning?

You need not only a financial plan, but a management succession plan. Ideally, each year that you are still involved should have goals for passing on responsibility for portions of the business.

6) What role should you play in the business once you’ve retired?

As little as possible, and preferably none. Every time you come in the perception of authority shifts. If you trained your successor well, being available as an advisor should be sufficient.

As Mr. Dini points out in his award-winning book, Hunting In A Farmer’s World, “Buyers of any type will pay more for a business that has documented systems, skilled management, and a history of executing according to plan without the owner’s intervention.”

In other words, don’t spend too much time working in your business. Rather, begin phasing yourself out of the daily activities as early as possible and with strategic succession planning. After all, wouldn’t you rather enjoy your golden years on the golf course or at a resort than worrying about every stressful detail that kept you up at night as the owner?

 

 

Solving Family Business Conflicts Before They’re Out of Control

Family Business

The strong personalities and wills that make family businesses successful are also the roots of family conflicts. Too many of these conflicts have been allowed to grow out of control and have wound up in litigation, causing major rifts in families as well as in the businesses. They usually cause major strain on family relationships through one party buying out another or by family members continuing to work with each other in an atmosphere of tension.

Often I have heard comments such as, “My sister wants to keep our company small and is fighting a controlled growth,” or “Dad won’t let go of the control,” or “My brother and I are paid the same and he doesn’t carry his weight.”

Family members usually have different levels of involvement and will rarely agree on what those levels are, or how to set fair compensation for different levels of involvement. Are the perks reasonable? What about the children of the non-active family member? Should the business be required to give them good jobs as well? Can it afford to? These conflicts get much worse if a divorce takes place.

One way to avoid lawsuits is to agree to binding arbitration. This means that you let a third party decide who is right after the party hears arguments and sees evidence from both sides.

Another alternative dispute resolution approach is the so-called “rent-a-judge” method. Family members hire a judge who gives a binding or, depending upon the wishes of the parties, a non-binding opinion.

Some family disputes are being solved by using a confidential-non-binding process in which the attorneys representing the family members give condensed arguments to an expert advisor. This process—called a mini-trial—lets family members look at the strengths and weaknesses of both sides and facilitates a settlement through the exchange of information.

Of course, the best solution is always to try to avoid disputes of this scale altogether by structuring the ownership and responsibilities in a family business to suit the abilities and personalities of the family members involved. The sad reality is that these disputes are inevitable. When they do occur, the key is to acknowledge and address them right away, usually through an objective third party. The sooner you can act on a problem in your family-run business, the better your chances of avoiding the knockdown drag-out family feuds that cause the downfall of many businesses and the disruption of many families in business.

Allen E. Fishman founded The Alternative Board (TAB), the world’s largest franchise system providing advisory board and executive coaching services to business owners, Presidents and CEOs.

Fishman is also the author of several books in which he shares his business insights to help business owners, including two best-sellers: