Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Business Sustainability Through Effective Succession Planning


Running a sustainable and successful business in today’s dynamic marketplace can be a challenge. If you are thinking of transitioning your business to someone else, your challenges can be even greater. But with the right strategies and advice, you can ensure your business remains sustainable and successful throughout the process --whether the transition is a result of a sale of the business or the transfer of ownership and management control from one generation to the next.

It’s important to realize the way you build and manage your business today has implications for tomorrow. When you consider succession planning as part of your business’s sustainability plan, you’ll have a business that is built and managed in a way that facilitates change in management or ownership without major disruption.

You can enhance the sustainability of our business by making it less “people dependent” and more “process dependent”. Many businesses are too dependent on key people because their knowledge and expertise have not been documented. When these key individuals move on, their knowledge goes with them. To avoid this, it’s important you
document the significant strategies, tactics, processes and procedures that ensure your business achieves its goals. Franchises such as McDonald’s have perfected this level of documentation. It’s not a coincidence that they are one of the best examples of enduring business success.

Pretend for a moment that you are a buyer considering purchasing two different businesses. Business A is very successful, but your due diligence reveals that this success appears to be in large part due to the efforts of the existing owner who is very involved in the business and controls all decisions. Business B is not quite as successful, but has a comprehensive operation’s manual, which guides team members so that the business runs smoothly even when key personnel are absent. Which business would you be willing to pay more for?

A sustainable business ensures the processes that make the business successful have been carefully documented and facilitates continuity despite changes in key personnel. This factor enhances the value of the business in the eyes of a potential purchaser. This doesn’t mean that the people in a business are not important. In fact, the future owners of your business may be family members.

A Meyers Norris Penny colleague, David Bradley, focuses on the people side of business succession planning. His consulting firm, The Succession Planning Group, specializes in helping businesses transition from one generation to the next.

According to Bradley, having the right people in the right roles is critical. Bradley first looks at what the business needs and then evaluates the attributes of its key personnel. People are matched to roles where they are best suited for success. Bradley hastens to add, “The retiring owners must come to grips with the fact that their family members may not be best suited for the senior leadership roles. In fact, they may have to look outside the organization to find the right individual.”

Bradley also believes it is never too early to start developing a talent pool of tomorrow’s leaders. A sustainable business tends to be an incubator of talent, well suited to the challenge of leading the business in the future.

As a business owner, you've invested years of your life and the bulk of your financial assets. But sooner or later, it's inevitable that someone other than you will own and run your business. Effectively transitioning your business through the process will ensure that your business will remain sustainable and your legacy will turn out exactly how you imagined it.

Geoff McIntyre, CA is a Business Advisor with Meyers Norris Penny LLP. He can be reached at 250.763.8919 or [email protected]