Small-business owners should start succession planning earlier

According to experts at M&I, a part of BMO Financial Group, small-business owners should start succession planning five to 10 years before the anticipated transition; however, many small-business owners are so focused on everyday business operations, especially given today’s economic climate, that they are not investing the required time to develop a comprehensive succession strategy.

M&I maintains that this is concerning because the U.S. relies on the more than 20 million small businesses as they employ half of the American work force.

"It's never too early to begin succession planning, particularly when you consider that fewer than half of those expecting to retire in five years and one-third of those expecting to retire in the next 10 years have actually named a successor," says Mark Kugar, senior vice president of business banking at M&I. "In order for business owners to ensure their business continues to thrive, succession planning should be a priority that mitigates risks associated with economic uncertainty or a sudden shift in management."

Kugar recommends that small-business owners consider all options, which could mean selling, transitioning to a family member or business partner, or dissolving the business. Many complex issues should be evaluated during succession planning before coming to a decision. He also recommends for small-business owners to speak with a financial adviser because each business is different, and a succession plan should consider those unique business characteristics. Kugar says a financial adviser can help small-business owners determine who should become the successor, when the ideal time is to begin the transition, how the transition should be structured, and the short- and long-term financial implications.

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