Has your succession planning come to a standstill and you don’t know why or how to fix it? Fear, confusion, uncertainty, an undefined action plan and/or dysfunction within the family or business can all be contributors.
“Not every business struggles with all five of these challenges, but I usually see a number of them in almost every situation when succession efforts have stalled,” says Ricci M. Victorio, CSP, CPCC, managing partner at Mosaic Family Business Center.
Smart Business spoke with Victorio about five reasons succession plans stall and ways to overcome them.
What causes succession planning to stall?
Succession is about transforming the entire organization, not just transitioning a business from one person to the next. Shareholders, family members and key managers need to buy-in to the transition plan or they may undermine your efforts.
Business owners dealing with multiple issues stalling a succession plan shouldn’t feel doomed. You are not alone and there are professionals who can help you get unstuck. A succession coach or adviser can help guide your company through the emotional issues of this transition and identify early warning signs to prevent a smoldering fire from becoming a five-alarm blaze.
What are the common hang-ups and how can they be overcome?
Fear appears in many forms. In a family business it can encompass the fear of failing your family’s expectations or uncertainty about sufficient leadership skills. Such fears can transform into overwhelming doubts. Parents may fear sharing financial information with their children because of worries over perceptions of inequality in their estate plan. When talking about money and careers, familial bickering and artificial harmony replace understanding and trust. A coach can provide guidance in discussing emotional topics without confrontation, how to stay open, asking questions and considering differing opinions without blowing up.
Confusion often comes from being afraid to communicate or commit to action. Without clear communication or an execution plan, key personnel and family will become anxious worrying what is going to happen, who is actually in charge and how it will affect their security, which creates the added stress of business productivity going flat. By creating a timetable, sharing it with family, employees, your vendors and clients, and working with them to make sure it is clearly understood, you can sidestep this challenge.
Uncertainty over the economy and the business’ success has hindered many plans. You may be worried about the business value or if your successor can manage a significant bank loan. For family members, consider using a stock redemption program rather than a straight buyout, lock in key managers with a vested retirement plan, make sure you have a successor development plan and hire the best talent possible for the transition.
An undefined action plan can lead to skipped steps or no follow-through. The succession plan should be integrated into your strategic plan with specific and documented expectations, a timeline, ways to measure success and regular checkups.
Dysfunction — infighting, jealousy, sibling rivalry, secrecy and entitlement will stall family business succession. When relationships are out of alignment, people need to be heard, acknowledged and feel like they are making a contribution in dealing with important issues. Afterward, it’s possible the succession plan may look different than parents originally intended, but you will most likely have everyone on board, moving together. Even in a non-family business, not addressing existing dysfunction could lead to a failed succession effort.
There is a plan for every situation, but there is no standard solution. When your plan stalls, don’t be embarrassed to get help. Succession requires a great team, which includes the transactional assistance from your attorney and CPA, advice from your financial planner and a succession coach who focuses on the transformational goal of achieving a successful business transition while preserving family harmony.
Ricci M. Victorio, CSP, CPCC, is managing partner at Mosaic Family Business Center. Reach her at (415) 788-1952 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Website: More tips on how to have a successful succession transition.
Insights Wealth Management & Finance is brought to you by Mosaic Financial Partners Inc.
California small business owners rely on banks for traditional financial services, of course, but also for valuable knowledge and advice on navigating today’s challenging economy.
That’s why California Bank & Trust periodically conducts surveys of small business owners as part of the bank’s commitment to understanding small business owners’ challenges and needs.
“Knowledgeable banking professionals who take the time to understand your business objectives and your industry will often provide valuable suggestions on how to significantly improve your finances,” says Tory Nixon, Executive vice president at California Bank & Trust.
In support of Small Business Month, Smart Business spoke with Nixon about the most recent survey the bank conducted and what it revealed about the challenges small business owners face as the state’s economy continues to recover.
What challenges do California small business owners face?
Laws and regulations seem to be the biggest hurdle for business owners, with nearly 38 percent of survey responders citing that as a major issue. There’s also concern over cash flow and money management, access to capital and finding top quality employees.
Nearly half of those who responded describe California’s economic climate as worsening. While that might appear bleak, about half of all respondents also cited a need for additional capital in 2013 to expand or increase staffing.
What tools can owners use to overcome these challenges and succeed?
As noted, access to capital continues to be a challenge for smaller businesses, but small businesses can and do get financing — especially when maintaining a good working relationship with their business banker, who can help in arranging loans and lines of credit.
One key advantage that small business owners have over their larger counterparts is access to Small Business Administration financing. Look for a bank that’s a preferred SBA lender. That’s a sign that there are knowledgeable bankers who can help you navigate the complexities of both SBA 504 and SBA 7(a) loans, or provide you with traditional small business financing options.
Small business owners also should stay focused on their cash flow. Your business banker can provide expertise in cash management and access to accounts and technologies that can keep idle cash working as hard as possible.
How do business owners feel about their banking relationship?
Again, small business owners seem to be extremely concerned with cash flow management and access to capital, but a significant number are also looking for more expert knowledge and advice from bankers.
The bank’s survey found that about 80 percent of business owners feel their bank doesn’t do enough to inform them of state, federal or local programs that could help their business. That’s why many local and community banks are extending services to provide access to highly informative resource centers, digital magazines and newsletters, which provide exactly that kind of information and are easily accessible online. Banks also are providing valuable information through social media channels and via email marketing programs.
How can you improve your banking relationship and increase business growth?
In most cases, all you have to do is ask for help — and your business banker will follow up as often as necessary. Knowledgeable banking professionals who take the time to understand your business objectives and industry will often provide valuable suggestions for improving your finances.
Getting the most from your banking relationship means keeping the lines of communication open and scheduling regular meetings. Don’t be shy about sharing your business vision; it will inspire your banker to suggest the best solutions, technologies and financing to help your business grow in the months and years ahead.
Tory Nixon is executive vice president at California Bank & Trust.
Website: May is Small Business Month in California. Learn more.
Insights Banking & Finance is brought to you by California Bank & Trust