Succession planning – strip out the emotion

Succession planning in mid-sized professional services firms – and indeed in any small business – is not an intellectually difficult exercise. But it is one that is frequently avoided, and even when it is addressed, often the key issues are ignored.

So why do intelligent business professionals, who spend much of their time advising their own clients about the very issue that they find so hard to deal with themselves, simply sweep the whole succession planning issue so far under the carpet.

The answer is simple. The solution, though, is much more difficult. They simply cannot bring themselves to address the emotional issues that are such an integral part of any succession planning exercise.

So although a lawyer may provide useful advice in terms of drafting the documentation once a succession plan has been agreed, and a tax specialist might advise on the most tax-efficient way of structuring the deal, perhaps the initial discussions should be facilitated by psychologist or a counsellor, who can begin to help the participants strip away all the emotional factors such as pride, envy and superiority – and let good business sense prevail.