Succession Planning Guide for Australian Family Businesses
Family-business succession guide
Family-business succession is a journey, not an event. To be successful, it requires a regular investment of time over the course of three to five years.
This is the view of a new publication — An introductory guide to family business succession planning — aimed at family-business owners approaching retirement age.
The guide helps them understand the process of passing on their business to the next generation of family members; and what they need to think about to maximise their chance of success.
The three- to five-year timeframe to complete the succession-planning process is reflective of its potential complexity, the guide says.
Each family member brings their own skills and experience, perspectives, challenges, and emotions to the discussion; and relationship dynamics between family members vary.
A collaboration between Family Business Australia (FBA) and the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO), the guide covers:
- management succession: the transfer of leadership and day-to-day management of the business
- ownership succession: the transfer of equity interest in the business entity. (Owners do not necessarily have a say in management decisions.)
One of the first questions the guide asks is whether there’s potential for your business to stay in the family and be passed on to future generations. It includes a decision flowchart to help you answer this question.
If your business is suitable to be passed on, it’s time to start planning.
Planning for succession
While the guide stresses there’s no one-size-fits-all succession planning formula, there are key questions it says you must answer, namely:
When? It’s recommended you allow three to five years to plan for and implement family-business succession (though experienced advisors can help you fast-track the process). The guide includes a ‘Readiness assessment tool’ to help your family determine whether it’s ready to start the journey.
Who? Succession planning can involve individuals who are family members, owners and/or involved in day-to-day operations; non-family employees with or without an ownership interest; and investors. You may also decide to involve external advisors in the process.
How? Options include a gradual transfer of ownership by gifting or sale, or a complete one-off transfer; a total withdrawal from management by the current owners; or a progressive and staged devolution of power.
The guide includes a ‘Succession planning checklist’ to help you, your family and any non-family members work through the key steps.
The existing legal structure of the family business you’re transitioning may have different legal, accounting and taxation implications.
The guide, therefore, recommends you seek early advice from specialists in these areas.
Financial and business advisers like Modoras can help you with:
- process facilitation – to guide and coach the family through the discussions and planning
- law and accounting – to write shareholder agreements, undertake estate and tax planning, business structuring, governance, valuation, and ownership transfer completion
- business finance — to understand the nuances of your family and business finances
- business advice — to provide guidance on communication, family and business structures, governance, business strategy, roles, remuneration, and change management.
Other ways to transition or exit your business
If your children, for example, do not want to eventually take over your business, the guide explains other ways of transitioning or exiting it, namely:
- selling your business
- transferring your business to employees
- merging your business with another
- winding up your business
- liquidating your (insolvent) business.
If you’d like help with the accounting and taxation elements of a family-business succession plan, call us on 1300 888 803.
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