Business succession planning: putting the pieces together Featured

9:01pm EDT May 31, 2011
Business succession planning: putting the pieces together

Business succession planning is all about getting your “ducks in a row.” There are numerous things to consider in continuity planning, and my objective is to explore several non-financial issues. So, my context is: before you go and expand either through organic or non-organic (merger or acquisition) growth, is your company’s foundation/model finalized and clearly communicable to others?

Does your business and personal financial plan address what is needed as the foundation within your current company structure to create a successful business growth and continuation plan? After all, the marketing plan and business plan must stand on its own after you leave the business.

Is your succession team assembled, and are the “heirs” apparent to your employees prior to your exit? Be clear as to what has to be communicated and clarified before you leave the company. Ideally, get input from all of your employees if it’s physically possible to do so. Change often triggers fear in most people, so how can you assist your employees in embracing and adapting to change? Consider having your Human Resources professional interview each employee and/or stakeholder to ascertain what things need to be done to improve your company efficiencies. How do they rate the customer/client relationship from their perspective? Are they being heard as employees, and are their questions being answered consistently by all parties? Expand on the process of communication with partners, key employees, and rank and file. The uncertainty of the marketplace makes employees more suspicious when change is not explicitly explained. They may be excited about your retirement, but they are very interested in their job security.

Create a definitive communication plan that identifies everyone’s role in the continuation of the business. Then develop your personal plan for getting back to manifesting your life’s purpose in non-business ways. As you exit the company, how does your business and personal financial plan perpetuate your life’s purpose? What efforts have you made to create the synergy with the next management team to blend both cultures into one compatible emerging culture? Your departing role is to “pass the baton” both professionally and culturally.

As you remind yourself of that third question…What dreams will be left unfulfilled? What do I wish I had finished or done? What did I miss?

What steps should be taken to make the transfer of your life’s work-purpose happen? How do you put more purpose into your retirement, rather than only filling retirement with things to do? Can we blend your continuation plan with the points we discussed in previous articles about philanthropy and making the world a better place?

You may consider continuing as a mentor to your company as part of the purchase agreement. Many people consider teaching their successors as a way to achieve significance, whether their purchase agreement requires their presence or not. If your mentoring to the business is not needed, how do you take that wealth of knowledge and experience and transfer it to others to help future generations?

Many business owners have made their businesses the focal point of their lives. Now as they exit, they begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. Rather than lament the fact that your business career is over, you have the opportunity now to explore substitutes for your business to fulfill your life’s purpose. You may be best served volunteering to an entrepreneur organization, to serve as either a committee person or serve on its board. Mentoring other aspiring entrepreneurs will keep you sharp/vibrant and involved during the “golden years” of retirement.

If you adhere to the Sanskrit principle of “seva,” selfless service to others, what activity will give you similar joy that your business did, while making a greater contribution to humanity and community?

When retirees are asked what they will do for the rest of their lives, they give several responses: play golf every day, travel, move close to their children and grandchildren, and the list goes on.

How can we harness your enormous talent without depriving you of experiencing those initial responses? As you look around your city and community, would volunteering on a project to revitalize the city, the community, or the educational system fit into your life’s purpose definition of the transition from success to significance? Without neglecting all of the great causes in the world, could you make an impact on children, who may be influenced by you to seek a career in entrepreneurship, to eventually be an employer to create more jobs and so on? Isn’t that one definition of “paying it forward?” Could that be one path on your journey toward significance?

Robert A. Valente, CFP®, AEP®, CEO and Managing Member of RAV Financial Services LLC, can be reached at