Article by Armand Rossi, Tax & Business Services Partner, "Exit and Succession Planning" Featured in Connecticut Innovations
By Armand Rossi, Tax & Business Services Partner
For the entrepreneur business owner, succession and transition planning is not only a complex proposition but also a difficult challenge. Deciding who will succeed the current generation in running the business, while also maximizing and preserving the value of the company built over years, requires careful deliberation and forethought. For the business seller, this can be the transaction of a lifetime.
Selling or transferring a business is a complex process entailing a transition plan setting forth goals, priorities and strategies for success. Given the inherent challenges of the process, it is imperative for owners to identify a team of professional advisers familiar with legal, tax and risk management issues in order to review available choices and make the best decision.
Remember that the sale or transfer of a business is a process and not an event. This process, from planning to execution, can take anywhere from three to five years and entails four phases:
- Positioning for sale
- Transaction phase
- Wealth management
The first step in the process is the development of a succession plan establishing the personal retirement goals and cash-flow needs of the retiree owner. The plan should seek to minimize estate and gift taxes but must also provide liquidity to pay these taxes and provide financial independence to the surviving spouse and dependents. The plan should also take advantage of wealth transfer strategies such as gifts, trusts and family partnerships, which can be used during the owner’s lifetime to transfer assets to the family. Planning must also consider any children not involved in the business, to ensure equitable allocation of assets.
Determine the importance of continued family involvement in leadership and ownership of the company. Owners should have a candid discussion with key family members and work through the emotional and sensitive issues, establishing ground rules as to who will be involved and in what capacity, and identifying those who may not be involved in future management. This process has to be done early enough so that it becomes a planning conversation. This will greatly reduce the intense emotions often connected with business transitioning.