Succession Planning on the back burner – But Why? - Succession Plus

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Succession Planning on the back burner – But Why?

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Succession Planning on the back burner – But Why?

By , October 18, 2008

Despite all the research available it is still quite obvious that business owners in Australia are leaving succession planning on the backburner – a recent survey ( October 2008 ) of 230 advisory businesses conducted by Business Health showed that only 10% of business owners surveyed had a fully documented succession plan in place. Similar surveys conducted previously by CPA Australia and also by the Linchpin Group show very low numbers of business owners with an adequately designed and documented succession plan in place for their business. The net value of any business is, in many cases, our second greatest asset after the family home and in lots of cases a more valuable asset that even the family home, but interestingly business owners don’t seem able to pay the time, effort and attention required to devise a satisfactory succession or exit plan.

As an interesting contrast, professional investors in the small business market (venture capital firms and private equity funds ) will never go into an investment in a small business without having a detailed exit strategy documented & designed and often with a fall back or worst-case scenario exit strategy ialso included in the plan. In other words, the professionals always have an exit in mind before they enter – small business owners very rarely do ! ( “Begin with the end in mind” – Stephen R. Covey ) A sharp contrast between professional and “amateur” small to medium business owners or investors.

Research published last week by the Sydney Morning Herald based on demographic data from the New South Wales Department of Planning, published on 20 October indicates that between 2006 and 2036 the number of people in NSW aged 65 and over will increase by 111% and will represent, at that point, 21.5% of the population. The ageing population was the result of the baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1965) shifting into the older age groups, combined with falling mortality rates, the department said. Many of these baby boomers are in businesses and many are expected to retire in the short term future – in fact, the average age of a family business owner currently sits between 56 and 58 years old , depending on which survey data you review.

Given all the above information, it seems overwhelmingly clear succession planning should be a major priority for any business owner and particularly those approaching retirement – however this is not the case as the statistics also show a very small percentage of business owners have actually addressed this issue – the question we ask is why ?

It is not overly expensive by comparison to the value of the asset, there is of course time and effort involved, however the return on that time and effort can be considerable and in case studies of businesses we have worked with we been able to demonstrate substantial improvement in value as a result of detailed succession planning attention. Business owners are typically focused on the day-to-day issues of running their business and this often prevents them from looking at strategic long-term planning – the very thing which could actually release them from the trap of having to be involved in the day to day running of the business.

Succession planning, in our view, is simply about taking a considered and strategic approach to your business exit strategy ( In a similar way to the professional investors ) Without that approach, the value in your business may well simply retire when you do.

Craig West

Craig West

Managing Director | Succession Plus

Craig West is a strategic accountant who has over 20 years’ experience advising business owners. His background as a CPA in public practice, provided invaluable experience in the key issues of concern to business owners. Following 6 years of study to gain two masters degrees, Craig focused on Capital Gains Tax (CGT) for business sales advising on strategic management of tax issues. This experience formed a very strong view that business owners (and often their advisers) were unprepared and unaware of the steps required to prepare a business for exit.

Craig now acts as a strategic mentor for mid-market business owners and has written four critically acclaimed books on employee incentives, succession planning, asset protection and exit strategies. Craig has conducted numerous seminars and keynote presentations throughout Australia & internationally, including adviser education programs for the Institute of Chartered Accountants and CPA Australia.