Trusted advisors to help you navigate transition planning
Separating your personal and business finances is essential to protect your personal cash flow, maintain your personal credit and invest outside of your own business.
By ATB Financial 15 March 2023 4 min read
When you’re thinking about the future of your business and how to make it as successful as possible, you don’t have to do it alone. As you develop your transition plan, turn to trusted advisors to support you, so you can set yourself and your business up for today and all the tomorrows.
Having an advisory board can go a long way to make your transition planning go as smoothly—and profitably—as possible. A Deloitte report notes that many owners of privately held businesses “fail to take full advantage of the benefits formalized governance structures can provide. In particular, a business that doesn’t have a functioning board of directors or outside board of advisors may be missing out on a tremendous opportunity to improve management and profitability, especially during a period of transition.”
Advisory boards exist to add value to the business by offering expert perspectives on what works and what doesn’t for businesses facing ownership transitions. This not only means they should be staffed with specialists but—with a transition plan underway—they should be stacked with experts familiar with the nuances of this unique phase in a business’s lifespan.
Another level of expertise needed for transition advisors
When business owners think about who should join this new group of advisors, they should be looking for beyond normal skill sets. You could find an experienced lawyer, for example, but does this lawyer know the many facets of transition preparations and succession planning?
"While your existing advisory team may provide excellent advice on your day-to-day operations, business transitions can be complex and it is important to add additional experts that specialize in this area."
Senior director of Business Advisory and transition consultant
The main red flag to look out for when assembling the advisory board, Vella says, “are those that aren't willing to work as a team to help you achieve your goals. You want advisors who are comfortable being collaborative.”
Outside opinions can see obstacles and opportunities
If you and your executives are too close to a problem, you might not see its root cause or ripple effects. An advisory board can also enable owners to gain an outside perspective and timely insights from leaders they respect. For example, when an accountant who specializes in transition planning and onboarding successors is present, they can help solve issues related to investment strategy, charitable activities, tax implications, purchases or sales of significant assets, estate and gift planning, and much more.
The Deloitte report mentioned above also says that one area where a board has an impact on succession is looking for candidates to take over as CEO—and working with the current CEO to carry out that process. “Board members can help assist in identifying possible successors from the pool of candidates and serve as mentors for successor candidates. They may also advise on the broader talent plan and help with the implementation and monitoring of the management talent assessment and the management development plan.”
Vella says family members can also be members of advisory boards, as long as their experience warrants their invitation. “It’s great to have their input available when needed, but they have to realize they are part of the bigger process and you’ll be seeking advice from all the other advisors equally,” she says.
Overall, family businesses are more likely to engage in strategic or succession planning if they have a dedicated structure in place such as an advisory or fiduciary board to deal with these processes, according to a recent study in the Family Business Review.
The vital role of a wealth advisor
Business leaders will want to surround themselves with financial planners who recognize the many steps to a successful transition.
For example, when owners retire they have to shift their mindset around their relationship with the business. “Many owners have so much of their wealth tied to their business, often taking just a modest income for years, what they need to survive,” Vella says. “They can learn from wealth advisors what happens when that business isn’t there anymore.”
She explains that “the role of an ATB transition consultant is to quarterback all the advisors and ensure they are working together to achieve your transition plans. Think of it as bringing all your advisors to a boardroom table to collaborate and be on the same page in working toward your ultimate goal. That also involves bringing in the right experts at the right time in the process. This might include an estate specialist, a tax advisor or a mergers and acquisition advisor.”
Another area where advisors can support business owners is easing the emotional toll. Business owners can overlook the positive emotional benefits their companies bring to them, particularly the comfort of community and purpose. Advisors who have experience moving from one company to the next, or retiring after a long run at a firm, can relate to what business owners endure mentally and physically. The long hours, the dozens of questions that need answers, the due diligence process—an advisory board can help manage the many tasks an owner will be handling in the months leading up to leaving the business.
Experiencing confidence and peace of mind during this challenging work can be the biggest benefit of bringing trusted transition advisors on board.
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 email@example.com.
Photo credit: Travel Alberta
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