If you want your business to have a life after you, plan for succession now and do it by finding a capable successor. Without a groomed and competent successor that your clients know and trust, your clients will go running for the hills when you are ready to call it quits. Your clients probably don’t know that the business could survive without you being there every day – they don’t know that you have great staff and documented processes that could keep the place running. Your clients trust you much more than they trust your business. So if you want your clients to stay with the business after you retire, you have to engender that same trust in your successor.
If you do not want your business to have a life after you leave, or if it is simply too late to begin the succession transition, planning for a sale of the business is the other option. However, one of the main things any buyer will be looking for in a firm that is selling is “Does the business run on its own, without the need of any one person being involved.” If the answer to that question is no because the business cannot run without you – the owner – your business will be devalued and your selling price will likely not be what you are expecting or your firm may not be sellable at all. The last thing most advisors want is to have to walk away from their life’s work with very little to show for it.
There are so many complexities to the manner in which a successor can take over a business, it would be pointless to try to talk about them all in a blog post. However, the one factor that correlates among firms that have successful transitions of ownership is to choose the successor early and begin the transition at least 5 years (10 being better) before the owner is ready to retire. Your clients need to know, trust, and sometimes even prefer your successor if they are going to stay with the business after you retire.