Who’s on your business transition project team?

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When it comes to putting in place a plan to leave your business getting the right advice can save you significant amounts of time and money. Most business owners don’t exit businesses very often, so they generally don’t have the skills or knowledge to manage the exit process. And there usually isn’t enough time in life to recover from the major mistakes that can be made when preparing to sell or transition your business.


Whether you are a small or medium-sized business, you need a team of experts to help you. There is not one person with all the skills and knowledge required to manage the accounting, tax, legal, planning, financial, transfer and negotiations needed to complete your succession plan.

It’s worth noting that there are quite a few professionals who claim to offer succession-planning advice. However, in many instances they are limited to the extent of advice they can properly provide. Lawyers are important in being able to provide all the required legal documentation and advice; financial planners will provide expert advice on insurance to cover your risks as well as much needed investment advice; and accountants provide excellent financial insights and tax minimisation strategies. Each professional has a role in the succession plan, but when they work in isolation they limit the extent to which you can achieve the best outcomes that can only be obtained in a comprehensive succession plan.


Many examples of failed succession plans can be attributed to such individual experts who have not been properly trained in succession planning. Don’t let yourself be a casualty. A good succession plan will ensure the process is coordinated and that the right advice is sought from the right professional adviser. A certified exit planner will ensure a team of professional advisers is created to work collaboratively in your best interests. Quite often this will mean using your existing accountant, lawyer, financial planner, and business broker (if applicable), although it is essential that they be prepared to work with specialists from other areas.


The reasons you need to engage a succession planning team include:

  • Understanding your specific needs and concerns. There is no single approach that suits every business, so a plan that takes into account your particular circumstances is important.
  • Having a team of professionals will provide a wider range of experience and expertise to overcome issues arising as the sale process unfolds.
  • When your succession event occurs, you may need support to see it through. Having a team focused on you will help avoid some of the stresses that inevitably come with making major changes.
  • The team will be held accountable by your succession adviser to deliver exactly what is needed at the appropriate time.


At this point you may be becoming concerned with the potential cost of engaging an expert succession planner and a team of experts. You should be clear about the fact that there are going to be costs involved in getting good advice. However, the costs incurred should pale into insignificance alongside the additional money you make on realising the full potential value in your business, Also, a professional team can save you substantial costs that can be incurred through lack of knowledge or poor preparation. These costs are up front and you should look at them as an investment in your future and your family’s future.


Who can help me prepare a succession plan?

The best way to coordinate the different professions is to appoint a specialist exit and succession adviser. A properly qualified adviser will have credentials gained from the Exit Planning Institute (EPI) and will be a Certified Exit Planner (CEPA). A CEPA has the knowledge and skills needed to properly plan and co-ordinate your exit. Such an adviser can map out a process that clearly sets out when the appropriate expert is needed, as well as ensure there is a clear brief on what services are required.

Qualified exit planner/business advisers. These qualified professionals help clarify objectives, evaluate business and exit strategies, review financial implications, help resolve conflicts and confusion, assist in employee transition management, and help develop the business continuance plans and strategies.

The best advisers have close working relationships with other professional advisers. The exit planning process requires the co-ordination of a range of experts to ensure that you, as the client, get the very best of advise consistently across you advisory team. Other professional advisers involved in the Exit planning process include:

  1. Accountants (and tax advisers). Apart from the manage­ment and compliance accounting services, accountants generally can advise in planning to minimise capital gains, estate and other taxes for the current owner, partners and family members. Financial and secu­rity planning can also involve the use of trusts.
  2. Financial planners. Provide financial advice across a broad area, including cases where the owner has begun to accumulate personal assets outside the business or will have funds from the sale of the business. The adviser can help develop an appropriate strategy for investment and retirement funding, as well as advising on appropriate personal insurances.
  3. Legal advisers. Lawyers will help the team with legal issues as they arise. Once a succession strategy is determined, the legal adviser plays a key role in drafting partnership agreements, buy-sell agree­ments, employee equity agreements, matrimonial agreements, trust creation and restructuring corporate capital.
  4. Bank or funding managers. These have an interest in the impact of succession on the business debt and future performance if it is a family succession. Also, they might play a role if financing is a requirement in the plan.
  5. Human resources advisers. If the plan is going to have a major impact on the employees – such as redundancy due to downsizing, merger through selling, significant job changes – a professional adviser can assist in the planning and introduction of the necessary transition processes.


Ascend Business Partners offer the unique combined expertise of a CPA, certified exit planning adviser (CEPA) and a business broker.. This means we are well placed to provide good advice and to work collaboratively with your other advisers. We can help you with assessing and optimising the value of your business, finding a buyer, assist with negotiating the sale or succession, and will ensure that your personal financial goals are taken into account during the process.


Whom ever you decide to have on your team, it is worthwhile getting expert advice during the business ownership transition process. After working for years or decades on what will be your legacy, why would you leave the outcome of this important transaction to chance?


Greg Johnson is the Managing Director of Ascend Business Partners and author of the book “7 Steps to REFIRE”.

Contact Ascend Business Partners today on 03 8794 7777 or ascend@ascendpartners.com.au to have a discussion about your business and personal goals. Or simply book a free 1-hour “Time to REFIRE” workshop with Greg!

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