Some businesses do not outlive their owner's involvement, but many do. What does it take for a business to continue when the founder is no longer at the helm?
If you think of your business as a legacy that you wish to pass on to a family member, a partner or a valued employee, start planning now to create a business succession plan. Don't limit your thinking to a family member taking over for you. There are many different ways that small businesses continue after the owner has passed control of the company, but all require advance planning.
Interestingly, business.com's recent post, "The Show Must Go On: The Importance of Business Succession Planning," explains that there are some key underlying factors that determine whether a business succession plan is necessary. In some instances, it's easiest just to sell the business entirely, but other times there are partners who may want the business to continue operating after the founder is no longer involved. After determining if the business has the potential for long-term viability, an owner should have a succession plan that includes selecting a successor and getting the business appraised.
Selecting a Successor
Sometimes a small business owner will select a family member to assume the leadership role. However, you may not know if that person has the skills or experience to make a go of it and ensure that the business will continue to grow. You can't assume your children will want to continue the family business, and there actually may be other business partners or key employees who are better suited to take over. In any event, it's important to select and train your successors in all phases of the business. Then the business owner needs to be able to step aside and let the successors start to make the transition.
The Valuation of the Business
There are three ways to determine the value of a business. Let's look at each one. In the Asset Approach, the value of a business is determined by examining the stated assets and deducting the liabilities. However, this look focuses mainly on the balance sheet and doesn't consider important elements such as market conditions or good will. The Income Approach analyzes business income, requiring a review of past earnings, projecting future earnings and factoring future cash flow and capitalization to arrive at the present or future value of the business. Finally, the Market Approach, which is basically a comprehensive analysis of comparable companies that have been sold in the same industry, accounts for differences in the size, duration, and market risk of the business. An objective evaluation of present or future value of a business requires the services of a business valuation expert such as a CPA with business valuation credentials.
Creating and implementing a well-thought-out succession plan helps business owners in several ways. If the value of the business is determined, there should be no need for valuation in the event of death, and the price for a partner's share can be agreed upon. Also, a succession plan, along with a comprehensive estate plan, can expedite the settlement of an estate if the owner dies.
To develop a business succession plan suitable for you and your business, you should involve trusted advisors, including a CPA, tax advisor and estate planning attorney.
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