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Succession Planning: First Five steps toward the future you want


Published March 13, 2019 • 7 Min Read

What’s Your Next Move?

Chances are, whether you are just starting out, are midway through your business career or are looking to retire, you have big ideas for the future of your business.

This RBC Caribbean Business Growth Series is dedicated to Business Succession Planning that provides an overview of decisions needed in the first 5 of 10 key areas that you may be facing in the coming years as you plan your succession. It’s your time now. Let’s go.

What is Succession Planning?

You and your family have spent years working hard to build a successful business. You may be starting to think about retirement and considering how you might begin to transition out of the business and prepare for life after managing a successful business. Think of succession planning as a way of recording your intentions for retirement and how your family will transition the business’s ownership, management decisions and physical assets.

Even though the sale of physical assets may be straightforward, ownership and management transitions can be much more complex. Add family relationships into the mix, and you can end up with a multi-faceted puzzle that will take some time and expertise to sort out.

With succession planning, it’s always best to start early. That means creating a plan before you reach retirement, so you can take the time to work through the process and consider everyone’s needs. In some cases, we’ve seen this process take several years. It’s often a good idea to involve other outside professionals, too, such as your lawyer, accountant, business succession specialist and your banker. No matter where you are on your succession planning journey, this guide will help.

Why Have a Succession Plan?

Whether you are planning to step away from the business gradually, or exit your business to explore personal interests or pursue a new venture, it’s important to have a plan. Businesses in the Caribbean operate using different types of business arrangements – from sole proprietorships to partnerships and limited corporations. One thing’s for sure: your business can be your most valuable asset when making plans for what’s next.

A formal business succession plan can:

  • Improve the family’s general knowledge of succession planning.

  • Provide financial security for you, while sustaining the business for the next generation.

  • Manage your wealth – and help to minimize your tax liability.

  • Outline intentions for transferring property and assets to your spouse, children or other individuals.

  • Set up the right debt structure so the next generation can prosper.

    • Strive for fairness for all family members (fairness does not always mean equality).

    • Offer time to review your options to ensure the right decisions are made for the business, you and your family.

    • Identify outside players or consultants who may be able to provide specialized information about the business’ transition plans.

      • Give you a written framework for solving disputes.

      • Help all players monitor the process and the progress of the transition.

      First 5 of 10 Steps Towards the Future You Want

      Consider these first 5 steps, and you’ll be well on your way to a smooth succession plan.

      1. Have you discussed your succession plans with your family?

      Involving your family in the planning and preparation of your succession can make the difference between a smooth transition to the next generation and a contentious one. To ensure an effective transition, start your succession planning discussions several years in advance of when you plan to retire. Then, decide who the players at the table should be, including spouses, in-laws, children (both those interested in staying involved, and those who will not be involved), off-business family and/or invested employees. An open dialogue is the best way forward for success. Considering everyone’s feelings, honoring individual skills and ideas and making this a collaborative activity can help strengthen the family bond.

      What’s your next move?

      • Discuss key issues and opportunities with those closest to you.

      • Schedule and hold a family meeting to talk about your succession plans.

      • Write up your set of retirement or transition goals.

      2. Are your critical papers in order and easily accessible?

      Being armed with good – and accurate – information can make decisions easier. Sharing that information with others will be key to a successful succession plan. Collect information on your business, and ensure it’s up-to-date. This may require you to reach out to other business partners, such as your lawyer, accountant, banker and consultant. Information that helps you analyze the current financial situation of your business will help determine the viability of the succession plans and how the business will sustain both the retiring generation and the next generation that’s stepping up.

      What’s your next move?

      Here is a suggested list of records needed to create a succession plan. This is not a complete list, as it will vary by business and family, but it will give you a place to start.

      • Wills and directives.

      • Partnership agreements.

      • Financial statements.

      • Income tax returns.

      • Business appraisals.

      • Business plans.

      • Insurance policies.

      • Lease agreements.

      • Employee contracts.

      • Mortgage and loan information.

      • Asset list (equipment, buildings, land and more).

      • List of key suppliers and consultants.

      3. Do you know the current value of the business, and have you determined that the business can financially support all family members who want to manage?

      Do you know whether your business has the financial resources to adequately support the incoming generation of owners, while also providing a comfortable and secure future for those who are transitioning out of the business?

      Consider any anticipated family changes that could impact future revenue or savings, such as marriages, the birth of children/grandchildren, fluctuations in health, changes to living arrangements and more.

      The goal is to ensure the business is profitable enough to support the succession plan and future generations. If it isn’t, you’ll need to make changes to ensure the business can support these plans – before the funds are needed.

      Your accountant, banker, financial planner or business valuator can help you arrive at a fair market value for the business, and provide suggestions on how to maximize business value.

      What’s your next move?

      • Contact your banker, accountant and financial planner to review the valuation of your business, and determine how the business can contribute financially to the succession plan.

      4. Have you considered how much future income you will need to retire after the transition?

      There are many retirement cash flow calculators to help you determine your post-retirement income, but much will be determined by your individual plans for your retirement. You’ll also need to consider the amount of debt the next generation can support.

      Discuss your retirement plans with your family. Are you planning to travel? Do you want to continue living where you live currently, or are you considering a move elsewhere? Should the business pay you a lump sum amount, or installments over time? Do you want to maintain an investment in the business (along with the risk that entails)?

      Next, begin gathering the related costs for each scenario you want to explore. Adjusting to a reduced income (if necessary) may not be easy, but understanding your new post-retirement cost of living will give you a realistic handle on what the business – and next generation – can afford.

      What’s your next move?

      • Make a list of your retirement plans – best-case to least desirable – and cost out each option.

      • Assess what’s realistic based on the business evaluation you’ve received previously, and adjust where necessary

      5. Have you considered the tax impacts, financial and legal options for the transition?

      Tax implications, financial and legal options and obligations will depend on the type of business you own, and the ways you will want to transition your business.

      Since there are different tax implications for different assets related to rollovers, capital gains and depreciation, this is an area where it is best to seek out the advice of a financial advisor with a comprehensive understanding of tax laws as they relate to your specific industry.

      What’s your next move?

      • Determine your transition plans, with as much detail as possible, then seek the advice of a financial advisor, tax planner or lawyer

      Are you looking for one-on-one advice on what pathway you should take? Connect with an RBC Relationship Manager in your area.

      This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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