Succession Planning Part 2: Revisiting the Plan + Team Dynamics
By February 27, 2023 Business planning
In our first of this 2-part series on succession planning, we laid the foundation for succession planning — quite literally — by talking about its foundational role as part of the business plan.
But we also discussed the importance of staying flexible; if the past few years have taught small- and medium-sized business owners anything, it’s that the only thing they can reliably count on is that everything is susceptible to change.
So this means that your business plan, complete with initial ideas about succession planning, shouldn’t just sit on a digital shelf buried in your computer files, never to be seen or heard from again. In fact, Matt Baca, Vice President Commercial Lending at Plumas Bank, advises that business and succession plans should be living, breathing documents, receiving check-ins at regular intervals.
“A lot of biz owners need some type of framework. As lenders in our local markets, we have the contacts to help. We can also help by reviewing business plans and talking through the timing of everything as it relates to the transition of ownership.”
When to Revisit the Succession Plan
“How often you revisit your business and succession plan depends on where your company is in its life cycle, which is predicated on where the business plan has it lined up; if you’re just starting your business and it’s in that growth phase, I would say you’re revisiting the succession plan and the growth/long-term plan every couple of years — basically asking yourself, ‘Is what my company is doing over last 18-24 months lining up with what I set out in my business plan? What is my trajectory? Am I still on the same time frame?’”
But Baca notes that once your company is at full growth with no expansion, you’re hitting all the metrics, and you’re looking at a plateau — that’s when you ramp up those check-ins.
“I’d recommend you start revisiting that plan almost on an annual basis, especially if you know you’re five to seven years out from retirement or selling off the company or whatever your plan is,” Baca says. “So that’s when you’re starting to revisit that on an annual basis, and that’s when you’re also starting to intertwine your business partners in the market — or your ‘center of influence,’ as I call them.”
The 5 Pillars of a Succession Planning Team
Baca suggests that in order to ensure every aspect of transitioning out of business is adequately covered, a business owner needs a succession planning team comprised of five pillars.
“You’ll need to make sure you have an attorney in place, your CPA or accountant, whomever you have handling your investments, and your traditional lender or banker — whether it’s a relationship manager or someone at your main financial institution.”
The fifth — and arguably most important — pillar: The person with whom you plan to entrust your business, if such a transition is part of your succession plan.
“You definitely need to start preliminary discussions with your family or your choice for a future leader to see if they’re going to be interested in coming in and taking over.”
Based on his experience, Baca says many business owners aren’t aware of the necessity for a team this expansive or even what to expect from each pillar.
“A lot of biz owners need some type of framework. Basically, they’re aware there’s all this information out there, but where do they get started? As lenders in our local markets, we have the contacts. So if you don’t have someone lined up to serve in any of these capacities, I’ll refer you over. The business owner can then open a discussion with a law firm or a specific attorney who specializes in what they need. We can also help by reviewing business plans and talking through the timing of everything as it relates to the transition of ownership.”
No matter where you are in your business lifecycle, Baca’s final recommendation: Have a realistic understanding of your business’ worth.
“It doesn’t hurt to have an independent business valuation — there are different CPA firms that can perform this, or independent groups that can come in and do an assessment of your full financials. That will give the business owner a realistic idea, for your retirement or if you sell, what is the realistic value? What’s the feasible value in this market? It doesn’t hurt to get one of those — ideally a few years out, just to make sure your retirement plan is aligned," advises Baca.
Knowledge Is Power
You’re convinced: You’re aware of the benefits of succession planning, you’re armed with knowledge about timing, and you know about the members of your 5-pillar team.
Ready to learn more? Here are just a handful of helpful links that may provide more insights about other succession planning topics:
Succession Planning: A Step-by-Step Guide from the National Institutes of Health Office of Human Resources
Succession Planning Desk Guide from USGS.gov
A Comprehensive Guide to The Leadership Succession Planning Process from Forbes.com
The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Succession Planning from the SCORE Foundation
SIGMA’s 6-Step Succession Planning from SIGMA Assessment Systems
And at the end of the day, if you find yourself with more questions than answers: Your business banker at Plumas Bank is standing by.