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Why is it so hard to start a succession plan? Writer’s block, or just procrastination?


It seemed an easy project: write an article for Anthill on Succession Planning. Yet for some reason, it just wasn’t taking off.

I pride myself on being a proficient writer and love getting involved in blogs, tweets and so forth. I know the subject, but the words were not appearing. I tried analogies and putting the owner in the buyer’s seat, but it didn’t gel.

Why was I struggling with this topic?

Then the irony hit me. I was trying to write an article about needing to start Succession Planning, yet I couldn’t get started. Is this our problem, starting, and, if so, why? For me, I was getting bogged down in too much detail.

So, what is succession planning? [First thing’s first]

Succession Planning for your business is an easy topic to grasp: it’s about putting a plan in place for your business so, ultimately, when you sell – be it to family, staff or the market – you will not only maximise your price, but ensure an easy transition process that will increase the marketability to a prospective buyer.

Well, that seems like a pretty important document to me, so why do so many of us put off what is akin to an ‘insurance plan’ for our future?

Let’s face it: we’re too focused on the now and today’s issues of running a business, managing staff, ensuring the bills get paid, etc. So we inevitably put if off for another day that never eventuates.

But I couldn’t put this off. I had the end in mind.

So what made me decide to continue with writing this article?

Apart from the fact I boasted to one of my bosses that I could do it “easily – writing is what I do,” I was also determined to work towards my employer’s first article that will assist in leading us towards thought leadership in the business broking industry.

I had the “end in mind”, as Stephen Covey says.

What’s your incentive to start the process of Succession Planning? With your “end in mind”, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I know what my business is worth today?
  • Do I have a plan that will ensure that my envisaged retirement fund will eventuate?
  • Do I know where my industry and marketplace is heading into the future?
    (Have you considered that your exit strategy may be influenced by the industry life cycle position?)
  • How’s my competition?
    (Are you headed towards being within a highly competitive marketplace that will make it harder to stand out to a potential buyer?)
  • Is there potential to grow my business after I leave?
    (Purchasers want to buy a business they can develop and on which they can imprint their personality.)
  • Do I need external resources to get the business into shape and maximise the sale price?
  • Have I ensured that if my business partner or key staff member/s leave (or had health issues or even died) the business will continue to run smoothly?
    (Have you considered the intellectual property that has been developed by certain individuals without written documentation?)
  • Would I want to stay for a lengthy transition period?
  • Have I considered that my plan could be a one-page, dot point document?

Do any of the above questions resonate with you when you start to think about your Succession Plan, enough to add it to your ‘To-do’ list and persist with it? The challenge is there for you to start jotting down some thoughts.

Here concludes this tale. For now.

Well, I feel fabulous now that I can tick this ‘To-do’ task off my list, and it was all thanks to focusing on the “end in mind.”

In coming weeks, look out for further, more detailed articles on Succession Planning, so we can help you start making headway… and hopefully feel fabulous too!

Megan Barrow is marketing coordinator for Corporate Business Brokers, a mergers and acquisitions practice in Melbourne.

Image by Drew Coffman