Succession Could Be Just Around the Corner

Posting by Geoffrey D. Brown, CPA, Principal

I recently had a head-on collision with my own mortality when my doctor told me that I needed open-heart surgery to fix a rather unusual problem with my heart. Fortunately we live in a time when it could be fixed, the surgery was successful and I’m back in the swing of things.

Of the many things that I thought about, one item – in my role as a family business advisor – was about the family business owner who suddenly becomes terminally ill, or drops dead from a heart attack or is sidelined for an indefinite period of time due to a disability, without a proper succession plan in place. As my wife and I prepared for my surgery, the one thing that we did not have to concern ourselves with was what would happen if I did not survive, as we had planned for that possibility in years past. One less thing for me to be concerned about as my date with the surgeon approached.
All too often we are working way too hard for our own good, day-to-day business consumes us and we never get around to thinking about the future. Then, when the future becomes the present, it’s too late. In the event that a family business owner suddenly passes without proper planning, both the business and the family find themselves ill-prepared and suffer.

To those family business owners who are consumed by their business and have little time to think of much else, my blog probably won’t be your wake up call, but it should be. Your grand dream of an enduring family business may go up in smoke. Many business owners think of themselves as immortal and can’t see how the business will run without them. Mortality is inevitable though. Whether your plan is to ultimately sell the business or to turn it over to the next generation, plan early and often for that inevitable succession. Consult with your advisors about transition or seek out those who can really help you with your succession planning issues.

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