The Essential Guide to Succession Planning for Small Business Owners

Small Business Succession Planning

Running a business is a demanding endeavor, requiring your full attention to daily operations and strategic planning. However, many small business owners often overlook a critical aspect of long-term success: succession planning. At Lumsden Law Firm, we understand that passing your business to the next generation involves careful preparation and strategic foresight. Without a solid succession plan, the future of your business could be at risk.

The Importance of Succession Planning

Succession planning involves identifying and developing future leaders for your company. It ensures that your business can continue to operate smoothly and effectively even after you step down. This process should ideally begin five to seven years before the expected transition. However, the best practice is to incorporate succession planning from the inception of your business.

Consequences of Failing to Plan

According to the 2023 North America Family Business Report from Brightstar Capital Partners, 90% of family businesses have no plans to reduce the family’s stake in the business. Similarly, the Harvard Business Review notes that family businesses often outlast others because they focus on legacy rather than short-term gains. However, without a proper succession plan, even family businesses can face significant challenges.

Insufficient succession planning can lead to increased recruitment costs, loss of business continuity, excessive leadership turnover, and damage to customer relationships. Moreover, the lack of a clear plan can negatively impact company culture and result in the loss of valuable institutional knowledge.

Steps to Effective Succession Planning

  1. Identify Key Positions: Determine which positions, including owners, executives, managers, and other critical roles, will require successors.
  2. Set Eligibility and Performance Criteria: Establish clear requirements and expectations for these roles to ensure the right candidates are selected.
  3. Develop a Talent Pipeline: Identify and groom internal candidates for future leadership roles. If necessary, look for external hires to fill any gaps.
  4. Prepare Successors: Provide necessary training, mentoring, and incentives to set up successors for success.
  5. Document and Evaluate the Plan: Maintain thorough documentation and regularly review and refine the succession plan to address any changes in the business environment.
  6. Determine Business Value: Accurately assess the fair market value of your business with the help of a professional appraiser or certified accountant.

Legal Considerations in Succession Planning

Choosing a successor involves several legal steps to ensure a smooth transition. Common choices include co-owners, family members, or key employees. Regardless of the choice, it’s essential to have thorough legal preparations.

  1. Transfer Methods: Options include gifting the business, selling it partially or entirely, or placing it in a family limited partnership or liability company. Each method has its own legal and tax implications.
  2. Contingency Planning: A succession plan should cover unexpected events like death, disability, divorce, or bankruptcy to ensure business continuity.
  3. Formal Documentation: Every step of the succession process should be documented, reviewed by an attorney, and signed by all parties to avoid disputes.


Succession planning is crucial for the long-term success and continuity of your business. At Lumsden Law Firm, we specialize in estate planning and can help you develop a comprehensive succession plan tailored to your business needs. Contact us today to start planning for a smooth and successful transition.

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