Last updated: February 19 2019

Defusing Business Succession Challenges

Business owners may believe they “have it all figured out” in planning for the future sale of their business, which can bring a false sense of security at the worst possible time. It’s a topic addressed by authors Evelyn Jacks and Jenifer Bartman in their new book Defusing the Family Business Time Bomb.

While it is typical for many family businesses to experience the “aches and pains” that are associated with members of a company having longstanding, personal relationships with one another (think conflict, role uncertainty, and the strife that comes with life developments such as divorce, illness, and death), there are other challenges that are just as important.  The world in which we live includes a number of external factors that make these days like no other, including:

  • Demographic factors: aging Baby Boomer business owners have a limited number of potential successors. Do they know it?
  • Disruption of key industries: new and complex business models and rapid digital/technological advancement could reduce expected valuations and make transition to new owners either irrelevant or much more costly. Is the company of relevance to customers, now and in the future?
  • Dramatic change in the global economy: making strategic planning difficult, increasing competition, and escalating the cost of doing business, thereby shrinking profit margins. Can the company compete on a profitable basis?
  • Uncertain tax rules: new and complex tax changes, restrictions to family income sprinkling, and a clawback of the small business deduction all impact profitability, investment opportunities, and access to capital. This challenge could be especially difficult for young entrepreneurs or successors who want to scale up the business for the future.  Is the company getting the right advice?

Take a moment and think about each of these significant developments. Any of these areas is a lot to deal with on its own, but when combined, these factors have the potential to stop a company in its tracks, making succession or sale of the business unattainable. 

Helping business owner clients consider what the impact of this discovery could mean to the business, for the employees and clients and most important, for their retirement, and legacy plans is a key aspect of family wealth planning.  Tax season provides a good opportunity to open discussions and a great tool to offer to your clients is Defusing the Family Business Time Bomb.

The above was excerpted from Jenifer Bartman’s blog. Jenifer also appeared on SET for Success on 680 CJOB with Richard Lannon to discuss this important issue last week, and the full interview can be heard here.

Additional educational resources: Looking for an opportunity to discuss key business succession and leadership issues with other business owner-managers? Join us at the second-annual Business Builder Retreat – taking place this summer in Winnipeg, and in November in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico!


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