indicatorSuccession Planning

Setting goals during the transition planning process

When business owners decide to move on from their companies, laying out specific goals and deadlines will make the transition smoother.

By ATB Financial 15 March 2023 4 min read

When you decide it’s time to  exit your company and focus on new priorities, your transition can be less stressful and more profitable when you lay out specific goals and deadlines.

We spoke to Amanda Vella, senior director, Business Advisory and transition consultant at ATB, to learn more about how to make business transition planning successful.


Tax plans, training management, accountability

“Starting as early as possible with identifying the goals for transition planning will ease the anxiety of undertaking the many tasks ahead,” advises Vella. “Start with 90-day sprints on what you have to manage. It also helps to select five personal and five business goals to accomplish,” she adds.

“For example, on the personal side, one 90-day sprint could be to get your tax plan in place, and what you need to cover in that plan to make retirement easier for you,” she says. “On the business side, you should look over customer contracts, vendor agreements, and document the processes you did in order for the next successor to understand what’s needed.”

Leaders may also want to train management, in small increments, on all aspects of the business so no one’s left in the dark when new owners begin to run the company.

"If the management team can run the day-to-day operations and have relationships with key vendors and suppliers, that is what is important to a new owner. There shouldn’t be a reliance on the previous owner."

Amanda Vella

Senior director, Business Advisory and transition consultant at ATB

Establishing a culture of accountability will strengthen the succession planning process too. “Conduct monthly accountability meetings after certain tasks have been assigned so the management team is expected to execute what they need to do by a certain date,” says Vella.

Valuation and preparing for a sale

Some business leaders will be exiting their position due to a sale. Preparing for a valuation can help optimize the sale value of your business. You want to make sure it has good growth prospects, a record of profitability and a reliable balance sheet. You may need to clean up the business, remove personal expenses from the books and work with an accountant on how to structure the sale to minimize your tax liability.

“You don’t want buyers to get into the business they just acquired and see that it’s crumbling, that divisions are short-staffed and they have to go hire to get back to normal operations,” says Vella.

“Buyers can see through slash and burn-type expense cuts to attempt to increase the valuation. Showing longer-term proof the company can function just fine with the operational efficiencies is more likely to translate to improved valuations.”

Valuing businesses is a specialized skill, so you may benefit by hiring a chartered business valuator. Vella recommends a certified exit planning advisor or transition consultant that can help owners prepare their company and find the right advisors to support their existing advisory team.


Being clear about post-succession plans

If an exit is the beginning of a business owner’s retirement, they’ll experience a sudden shift in their daily routine once it happens. They won’t be managing the many facets of running a business, as overwhelming and engaging as that can be. Transition planning means acknowledging and planning for what will occupy your time when you’re free to take on other pursuits.

Vella remarks on how owners can go from working up to 80 hours a week to relaxing poolside, which can be jarring for some former executives. “At first you might experience nostalgia, and then really enjoy that you don’t go into work every day but that can get old quickly,” she says. “Going from 80 to zero hours of work isn’t easy.”

She suggests exploring life after business planning, which focuses on how you can leverage your expertise or connection to a certain community and offer those around you insights they might treasure from someone with your experience.

“Maybe you can try putting more energy into charities or helping advise other businesses, in order to find purpose and meaning in your retirement life,” Vella adds.

The Exit Planning Institute suggests to owners, “You manage value throughout the course of your business lifecycle, but the most important time to manage your value is after exiting your business. To achieve the most value, you have to manage not only your business value but your personal financial value as well.”

The key takeaways Vella wants to stress to all business owners embarking on transitioning away from their company are to set clear goals, start as early as possible and don’t venture into this process alone. The more you can prepare before the departure day arrives, the better you’ll be set up for a smooth exit. Plus your business will be set up to thrive thanks to your foresight and hard work.

Learn more about selling your business successfully with ATB’s Business Transition Guide. Want tailored advice for business transition planning? Reach out to our Business Transition team at

Business Transition Guide

Learn the steps you can take to successfully sell and transition out of your business.

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