You’ve been dedicated to the task of leading your business for years, putting in the necessary time and effort to make sure that your company and employees thrive. Truly considering the idea of handing off the reins to a successor is likely to stir up feelings of trepidation and excitement. After pouring yourself into your business all this time, mixed emotions are par for the course.

Whether you’re nearing retirement or looking further into the future, strategic succession planning is key to smoothing the transition of leadership when the time comes. Planning for succession can feel intimidating, especially while you’re still hard at work running the company, but the steps you take now can make a significant impact down the line.

In this article, we’ll share with you the importance of succession planning and give you some financial implications to consider along the way. We’ll also offer steps you can take as a business owner to plan for an effective succession. With a little strategic planning, your company will be able to build on the hard work you’ve already put in as it transitions into a new phase of leadership.

Getting Started With Succession Planning

What is a succession plan and why is succession planning important?

A succession plan is designed to strategically and smoothly transition leadership or ownership of a company when someone steps down or can no longer fulfill their duties.

Proactive business succession planning mitigates risks of overwhelm and emotional decision-making inherent in putting together a plan too close to or at the time of ownership transition.


What are the pros of a good succession plan?

Maintain continuity and communication with all departments and at all levels throughout the transition process.

Mitigate risk if the transition of ownership comes earlier than expected.

Succession plans keep your stakeholders in the loop to avoid uncertainty.


What are the effects of poor or delayed succession planning?

Disruption to long-standing and day-to-day operations.

Potential devaluation of your company.

Disruption of employee morale and possible decline in productivity.


What are the steps of effective succession planning for business owners?

Set clear goals.

Identify successors.

Provide growth opportunities.

Write a formal written succession plan.

Review your succession plan with stakeholders.


What Is Succession Planning?

Business succession planning is a strategic and proactive approach to planning for a smooth transition of leadership when the owner or other critical employees leave a company. If the business will not be passed to a family member, this process also involves identifying and developing potential candidates to take over these positions. 

An effective succession planning strategy includes assessing your company’s current and future leadership needs, identifying and training potential successors, and developing a formal written plan that can be reviewed with relevant stakeholders. This process will maintain stability and continuity during leadership transitions and minimize disruptions that could impact operations and overall performance. 

Why Is Succession Planning Important?

There are a number of benefits to having a strong succession plan, as well as some significant risks to your business if you don’t have one in place. Developing a solid plan well ahead of time can help avoid the need to rush the process, giving you the chance to think through each detail carefully. 

Benefits of a Strong Plan

  • Prioritize Business Continuity: As a business owner, you know how important it is to maintain continuity across the board. A strong succession plan can help make sure each department and team is on the same page when it comes to leadership transitions. 
  • Minimize Disruptions During Unforeseen Transitions: Planning for the unexpected is an important piece of business ownership. If an owner or business leader needs to step down unexpectedly or passes away before retirement, a succession plan can limit disruptions and ease unforeseen transitions. 
  • Create Smoother Transitions for Stakeholders: With a written plan in place, you can reduce confusion and uncertainty. Stakeholders will feel more confident in the future of your business knowing that the transition process is well-planned. 

Risks of Not Having a Strong Plan

  • Disruption in Operations: If you skip strategic succession planning, your company could experience delays and disruptions to operations due to lack of clear leadership and inconsistent communication. This could lead to an existential threat to the business itself. 
  • Loss of Business Value: Unclear direction and operational delays can create uncertainty among employees, investors, and other stakeholders, reducing the overall value of the business. Lower valuation could start a domino effect resulting in permanent damage to market share and the business’s overall viability. 
  • Impact on Employee Morale: Lack of clear direction can negatively impact employee morale and productivity. A chaotic workplace with unclear leadership may spur the loss of valuable employees who take long-standing institutional knowledge with them. 
  • Potential Family Conflict: For family-owned businesses, the absence of a succession plan can lead to family conflict around the future direction of the business. Hurt feelings and emotional responses can greatly impact a company’s bottom line and the well-being of family members not directly involved in the business.

Financial Implications To Consider

Leaving the financial state of your business up to chance is not something that a dedicated business owner wants. Here are a few things to consider when planning for business succession. 

  • Tax Liabilities: There can be tax implications associated with transferring ownership of a business. It is important to discuss these with a tax expert when formalizing your succession plan. 
  • Salary Adjustments: New leadership might command a higher salary than that of the outgoing owner. New owners might consider escrow accounts or other financial options to manage potential budgetary deficits associated with a significant increase in income.
  • Coaching and Training Costs: Investing in mentorship programs or coaching for successors can be financially beneficial in the long run, even though it might require some up-front costs to the company. 

Coordinate with Legal and Financial Advisors

Be sure to discuss any succession planning with both legal and financial advisors to avoid costly disruptions during any leadership or ownership changes. Navigating these changes will be smoother for everyone involved when there is a strong, thoroughly reviewed plan in place for business owner succession. 

Effective Succession Planning for Business Owners

When you’re ready to start planning for the succession of your business, there are a number of steps you can take to create an effective plan to keep your business running smoothly and efficiently. 

1. Define Clear Goals. 

Clearly stating the goals of your succession plan will make it easier to implement and complete the plan when the time comes. Once you have considered the mission and vision of your business, consider how to balance your vision with the interests of your key stakeholders. 

Look ahead to the next few years, outlining any potential obstacles and how they will be addressed by current and future leadership. 

2. Identify Potential Successors. 

With the goals of your business clearly defined, you can better assess what characteristics to look for in future leaders. A strong leadership team should include a diverse set of voices that can bring together many perspectives while maintaining focus on the specific goals and mission of your company. 

After assessing roles that need to be filled and the qualities needed to do well, you can identify current employees with leadership potential who may be able to step into new positions. 

3. Provide Opportunities for Growth. 

Providing mentorship and training opportunities to potential successors is another factor to consider when planning for a leadership transition. Encouraging leadership skills in your employees can create a culture of growth that will provide you with more potential candidates.

4. Develop a Formal Written Plan.

When developing a formal written succession plan, be sure to address the type of ownership transfer process and relevant timelines. This includes determining if the company will be handed over with a traditional buy-sell agreement, as a gift, an inheritance, or through a process of co-ownership. 

To avoid gaps, leadership responsibilities should be thoroughly discussed and outlined in the written succession plan. Address all financial implications, including retirement funds, salary adjustments, legal and tax considerations, as well as all additional costs associated with restructuring.

5. Review the Plan with Stakeholders. 

Holding regular meetings with key stakeholders to assess your business succession plan is recommended. This gives you an opportunity to consider valuable feedback and allows the succession plan to be changed and updated over time in order to remain current and actionable. 

Final Thoughts

You’ve worked hard to make your business what it is, and you care deeply about the long-term success of your company, even when you aren’t around to steer the ship. By establishing a clear and comprehensive business succession plan, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that your business is in good hands and headed in the right direction. 

If you haven’t yet implemented a plan for succession in your business, it may be time to start the planning process soon to help secure your company’s legacy and your peace of mind. 

The financial advisors at SK Wealth have been supporting businesses through times of leadership transitions for over 25 years. Our unique financial planning process, The Integrated Financial Advantage™, will provide recommendations tailored to your individual business succession planning needs, helping you live with intention, tomorrow and today.

Click here to find out more about SK Wealth’s specialized financial planning and investment management services.

Jason Archambault

Author Jason Archambault

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