Thursday, March 23, 2017

If You Don’t Have a Succession Plan, You’re Not Alone

In the latest survey conducted by Canadian Federation of Independent Business, 51.1% of 8,303 respondents said they didn’t have a business succession plan to sell, transfer, or wind down their current business in the future.  That number is too high.  One may venture to compare this to dying without a will. How will anyone know your intentions for your business if you don’t have a formal written plan?

If we were having a conversation across your kitchen table or office desk, I would ask what’s stopping you. Most likely, I would share this survey so you would know you weren’t alone.  Although the majority of business owners opt to do nothing, procrastination is not the best solution.   

A handful of the surveyed questions released in May, 2011, are listed below for you to answer. See how close your responses resemble those of the 8,303 respondents.

Results:  Business Succession Planning

Do you have a business succession plan to sell, transfer, or wind down your current business in the future?  (Select one answer only)

Yes, a formal written plan
Yes, an informal plan (i.e. unwritten)
No (Skip to Question 12)


Approximately when do you plan to exit (sell, transfer, wind-down) your business? (Select one answer only)

Within 12 months
In the next 1 to 5 years
In the next 6 to 10 years
More than 10 years from now
Don’t know


Why do you not have a business succession plan for your current business (Select as many as apply)

Too early to plan for transition/succession
No time to deal with the issue
It is too complex
Can’t find adequate advice/tools to start
Don’t want to think about leaving
Conflict with family members/employees
Other (Please specify)


Please indicate your age category (Select one answer only)

Under 30
30 to 49
50 to 64
65 and over
Decline to state



If you feel like you’re stuck and can’t move forward with your transition plan, consider this step-by-step strategy.

(1) Identify the reasons why it’s important for you to develop a formal written plan.  Once you understand its importance, you will devote the time and energy to work on your business succession plan until its completion.

(2) Identify the reasons holding you back.  List every obstacle that hinders your progress.  Your obstacles might resemble the ones listed by respondents when they were asked why they didn’t have a business succession plan.

(3) Then, write three possible action steps to conquer and overcome each obstacle.  

If you have a tendency to say, “I would but…” consider converting every "BUT" scenario into these three words:

          Believe in your ability to tackle this task because it’s too important to ignore.

          Understand you control the outcome of the succession plan, not anyone else. 

          Trust your family and advisors to help you with the challenging task.


I don’t know about you but I found the survey results alarming. I want to challenge you to defy the odds, accomplish what most would deem impossible.  Start today with an action strategy to work on your succession plan. Then the next time someone asks you, “Do you have a business succession plan to sell, transfer, or wind down your current business,” your response will be “Yes.”

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