Succession planning – make it work for you

Statistics show that about 80 percent of business owners intend to retire in the next 10 years, yet nearly three quarters of them have no succession plan.

The reasons often cited for this include:

  • A low level of trust in the abilities of the successors
  • Unwillingness to let go
  • Little interest from potential successors
  • The financial capacity to retire

But it is often more than this. In many cases, those approaching retirement are concerned that their relevance in business, social and family circles will be diminished once they cease their working lives.

There are a few tips for franchisors to bear in mind to help make this process easier.

Succession need not be retirement

Succession planning should not be about getting old, stepping down, being unable to contribute anymore, or any other thoughts along these lines.

For those who have this view it is unlikely the succession process will take place, as they will be reluctant to let go.

Rather, business owners should put in place plans that see succession as the evolution of the business, and a legacy that they leave for others to continue and build on.

Set goals

Business owners need to ensure that they have not only set the goals for the succession process, but also for life after they exit the business.

The business goals will guide everyone through the process.

Setting personal goals – such as travel, study, volunteer work, learning a sport or other hobby, for instance – will give the ‘retiring to’ motivation.

Understand strengths and weaknesses

Everyone has a different psychological make-up, particularly Baby Boomers and Gen-Xs.

Business owners and founders are typically entrepreneurs who dislike repetition, rules and letting go.

Often they have a lack of interest in detail and therefore a formal succession process can be challenging, particularly when they have no vision about where their energies will be directed in the future.

The key to retiring successfully is ensuring a picture is created of the future and what can be achieved, so there is something to look forward to and to work towards.

Life after work

All too often, business owners work full time right up to their last day and then wake up the next day wondering what they are going to do for the next 12 hours – and subsequent days, weeks and months.

Ensure that the succession is staged so there is time to become accustomed to the things that can be achieved in life after work.

Consider extended leave breaks or a shorter working week so that a pattern can be developed for the coming change in circumstances.

Don’t waste skills

Just because someone is no longer working in the business, it doesn’t mean that their skills need to be lost.

Whether it is taking on board positions, charity work or similar activities, there are many opportunities to use hard-earned skills.

Keep calm, don’t panic

Often I hear clients say that they don’t want to retire “because they don’t know what they will do with themselves”.

But six to 12 months later these same clients are saying that they don’t know how they ever found the time to work.

These clients are the ones that developed their bucket lists and outside interests, and planned for this next life phase.