Business owners: Succession planning takes precedence over personal finances

Sixty percent of business owners are confident their business will continue to be successful after they retire, according to findings from the Merrill Lynch Affluent Insights Survey: Business Owner Spotlight. But only 35 percent of business owners with $10 million to $250 million in revenue said they are very confident that their own wealth management strategies will help them meet their financial and life goals if they stopped running their business today.

Only 39 percent of business owners said they worked with a management consultant, personal financial advisor or commercial banker to develop a succession plan, and one-third of them have not worked with a personal financial advisor or commercial banker to prepare their own personal finances.

“The best succession planning strategies evolve and require frequent evaluation. A transfer of ownership or management could happen on a timeline as planned, or come as a result of sudden or unforeseen circumstances,” said John Thiel, head of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. “That means business owners must take a holistic view of both personal and business finances. It is important that business owners are prepared for a variety of situations, not only so their business can seamlessly continue running after a transition, but also so their personal finances can continue to support their financial and life goals.”

When asked who they would trust to take their place if they were forced to stop running their business today, half (51 percent) of business owners would choose a current employee, followed by a family member (24 percent). One in five (21 percent) stated they’d have to hire someone from outside their business. If someone were to take over their company today, business owners would be most concerned with financial management (23 percent), leadership succession (20 percent), and business development and growth (16 percent).

The survey was conducted via phone by Braun Research in October 2012 on behalf of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. The nationally representative sample consisted of 250 business owners with revenue of $10 million to $250 million.


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