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Breaking Up With Your Business: How to Ease the Heartache of Succession


“What will I do with my time? I certainly don’t want to end up being the cheery ‘old’ person greeting people in a department store.”

Succession can be difficult. How can you give something away that you do not really want to give away? How do you actively engage in planning for the transfer away of something that has always been so close, so much part of you?

When your business has been a part of your work, personal, social and family life for a long time, there is no denying the fact that it may be difficult to go through all of this. Take heart, there are many others who have exited their businesses successfully by planning for the transition to happen on their own terms and according to a timeline that works for everyone. Even the smoothest exit from the business will require a bit of a heartache, which is normal. However, it cannot be avoided. Does this mean the whole experience has to be unpleasant? No.

Here are a few important things to consider that will be able to help you to walk into this process while still maintaining a measure of control and safety:

  1. Identify your biases. We all have them, it is normal. But ownership transition may require a thorough understanding of some feelings and needs which may have been buried below all those years of hard work you put into building a successful business. Identify how your biases can influence your decisions or even your indecisions. You may be surprised as to how large this influence may be.

  2. Be honest with yourself and those close to you and ask for help from professionals to clarify some of the feelings and thoughts which could have the potential to sabotage the plans that need to be made. It is not possible to make proper plans for the future when the sticky areas of the past have not been fully disclosed.

  3. Start building a future on the other side of the process, now. Don't wait. The worst gift to yourself is to wake up one morning and have nothing to do with your time. It is scary. It is lonely. Develop new hobbies now, build relationships with people who you can share your life with after you no longer have to go to work every day.

  4. ​Use time to your advantage. The earlier you start planning, the smoother the transition will be. Not just in terms of your own exit from ownership or key roles, but also your entry into new adventures and dreams such a travelling, hobbies.

  5. Revisit your perspective. The truth is, that if you’re thinking about succession, it’s proof that you have created wealth, value and a business that is built to last. Share that expertise by shifting your role to that of a mentor, ambassador and advisor. If your transition is to family or employees, this will be critical to the success of the business long term.

For more information as to how you can successfully transition out of your business, contact Eben Louw, CPA, CA at 604.853.9471 or [email protected].