Get a Better Handle
On The Unique Challenges During
Family Succession Planning
There are many technical aspects and tools required to prepare and execute a succession plan.
There are also non-technical aspects, like family dynamics that can play a much bigger role than you’d expect.
When doing a Google search on “Succession Planning” we get a whole host of players that talk about different components on family succession planning.
For example, players in the succession planning field include:
Headhunters/Executive Search/Leadership Training/HR Professionals
These advisors search/screen/train the next “leader” of your business. This group helps in the assessment of the suitability of family members and potential candidates inside and outside the company.
Insurance Agents/ Financial Planners
Insurance agents and financial planners assess and propose the best insurance strategy in the event of death/sickness/accident and suggest policy structures to minimize taxes.
These professionals reorganize the company’s situation, structure, and shares, put ownership in trusts and write new wills making sure you minimize liability.
Family Business Advisor
The Family Business Advisor in many cases plasy a vital role in family dynamics and human psychology. This person sees the non-technicalities and humanizes the process by providing personal advice to each party involved. It’s suggested that both the owner and successor have access to their advisor.
In many cases, the role of each player is to help with the family succession transactional items and advise on the technical aspects of their particular role in the process, except for the family business advisor.
For example, from a strict tax perspective, a common succession plan will likely consist of an estate freeze that fixes the value of the owner’s portion of the business (to help reduce tax bills and motivate the successor to pay off his shares as outlined in Secrets to Succession.).
In technical terms, for example, the accountants prepare and file tax documents, the lawyers prepare the legal files for signing, and the transaction of the plan is complete. Over a set period of time, the owner exits the business. On paper, it would appear that the family is all set.
But the reality behind closed doors is quite different…
This is where Continuity Planning comes into play.
Continuity planning is where the family advisor or consultant helps with the family dynamics by providing support to ensure the owner’s legacy continues.
If a family business owner assumes their son wants to run the business and that his daughter isn’t interested. However, has this conversation with the family taken place to gauge overall interest? Does the successor and the owner want to be in business together? When will they take over the family business? Regardless of when death or illness may happen, decisions need to be made several years in advance to thoroughly cover every aspect of continuity planning.
Other things that need to be considered…
What skills are required to run the show? Do management roles get handed out to family members?
What happens if the decision is to sell the business? How will the money be divided? Who gets what share? Who decides how the money is invested or managed?
And keep in mind that…
Children often don’t want to take over the family businesses until they have explored their own interests, and may end up following a different path.
These are all major decisions that need to be made before the advisors implement any of the transactional tools.
Family discussions with family advisors are required and in many cases take place at the dining table. The goal of these conversations is to come up with a plan that ensures the family business survives into the next generation.
A succession plan is in constant evolution, and should not be treated as a series of transactions.
It should be a topic where honesty and openness are exercised continuously to make the best decision for the continuity of the business.
Secrets To Succession is a book written by first-hand successor, Gerard Gust, who was groomed from a young age to take over the family business. At only 33 years old, he was able to retire his father in half the time they had planned. Gerard shares his own succession process, what works and what doesn’t in order to help other family businesses prepare, implement, and endure the complex family succession process.
“The odds were stacked against us but the strategies shared in this book helped us succeed, and you can do it too!” – Gerard Gust