Transitions are by definition change. Humankind does not like change and thus, tends to ignore planning for a transition until forced to do so. A forced transition for a spouse or business partner might be the death or disability of your partner. Without proper planning, this can be devastating to the survivor. If planned for, measures will be in place to ensure the continuity of the business and the survivor’s lifestyle so that the emotional healing will not be compounded by the threat of financial instability.
Most transitions are intentional and not nearly as dramatic. But without strategic planning they will be stressful all the same. A business owner may not want to “exit” or “sell” his business anytime soon, but it is beneficial to be prepared for any number of life’s transitions. Preparedness provides confidence and creative options for when you do decide the transitional moment is at hand.
As Wealth Managers and Business Transition Consultants, we specialized in creating confidence for our clients when they face transition. Historically, this has been primarily when planning for retirement. It is also inclusive of cases of death, divorce, new job, college graduation as well as unexpected windfalls. All of life’s transitions can be planned for. The key is to create more peace around the change and confidence around the impact the transition will have toward accomplishing personal and professional goals. Our business owner clients are unique; they own a business and that in and of itself affords them more independence. Yet most also carry more stress and responsibility as many more lives are dependent on and impacted by their actions. No one is going to tell them when, where or how they should handle the transition for their business and those transitions directly impact not only their own family but also the company and all its employees and their families. So often we encounter business owners who are just too busy to think about any type of transition. Unfortunately, the ostrich approach to transition planning does not generate an optimal outcome.
For clarity, transitions are not transactions. Transitions can be a path to a transaction but they are more of a process than a finite moment in time. Often professionals who say they are transition specialists are more likely transaction specialists, (think business broker, M&A specialist etc.) These individuals are great resources for the transaction of selling your business, but they typically do not participate in the preparation of optimizing the business for transition nor are they present for post transaction support. Ideally a business owner should have a trusted advisory resource aligned with his personal and business goals before, during and after the actual transaction. If no transaction occurs, the owner will have created lasting value in the business and lifestyle options for the future.
For those business owners who do not want to sell today, we suggest taking incremental steps to prepare your business, yourself and your family for a transition in your future. At the very least, you will have confidence you are doing the right things for all of those who depend on you. You also keep your options open if you decide selling is the path you wish to take. Ask yourself these questions:
What do I need from the sale to achieve financial independence?
Who do you need on your team to have confidence all aspects are considered?
What does life look like after the sale to remain relevant and to be fulfilling? ( Hint: golf and vacations only work so long)
Sellers have spent their lives creating thier business. It is a part of who you are and with a sale transaction there will be a lot more things to consider than just the financials. We have helped our clients with their concerns regarding their employees and their clients who they consider friends. We also work with them to figure out their new purpose in life as most of these business owners still want to be contributing to their community and to remain relevant to others just as they were in their business.
Business buyers are also experiencing a transition when purchasing a business. Yes, you start with the transaction, but that is just the beginning. Shortly after the deal is done, you now have to transition in as the new owner and lead the new team to be successful! New owners must be prepared to create confidence within the employees, the clients, and vendors not to mention being able to navigate all of the logistical issues and legal details; licenses, software, systems, employee benefits and retirement plans. Drinking from a fire hose comes to mind when we have worked with new business owners to help facilitate the transition and make the transition easier and less stressful.
Transition Planning is not Transaction Planning. Although industry professionals often use them as synonymous, nothing could be further from the truth. We have helped our clients be confident in life’s transitions and achieve personal goals as well as financial freedom. Our structured process toward optimizing business transitions addresses all aspects of a successful transition. And we are there to support the process before, during, and after a business purchase or sale. Our advice to business owners is simple. Whether selling or buying a business, keep your options open with a plan in place that provides for flexibility and creativity. Have a trusted advisor who can assist you along the way and help the transition be exciting not excruciating.