You’ve worked hard to build your business, and it’s a big part of who you are. No matter how great the selling price, how capable your successor, or how excited you are for the next phase of your life, change is hard. Our friend, Rena Striegel, owner of Transition Point Business Advisors, is focused on the human and emotional aspects that often cause hurdles and setbacks if not dealt with. Here’s a little bit about Rena and what she shared with us about her role in succession planning.

Rena Striegel is an internationally recognized business coach and consultant with more than 20 years of experience working directly with farmers, ag leaders, senior executives, and entrepreneurs to identify and implement strategies that create growth and profitability. In her role with Transition Point Business Advisors, she leads client projects in the areas of strategic planning, business succession and continuity planning, and employee/leadership development.

What are the typical problems clients are facing with succession planning when they come to you?

The most common problem I see when working through succession planning with a new client is hesitation with the transition. They often question if the business or operation can handle the transition of ownership and whether it’s viable for the successor.

Professionals who work in succession planning must be mindful of the emotional side of transition because those emotions can derail or hold back a transaction. Vulnerability is a common feeling for owners going through a business transition. It is often hard for business owners to articulate how they are feeling. It’s important to identify and address the feelings of hesitation to mitigate excess stress for the buyer and seller.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and Transition Point Business Advisors

I began my career in private banking to help business owners and then moved into consulting. Coming out of a heavily-regulated environment, I wanted to work with technical professionals, all while continuing to help people navigate the hurdles involved with business ownership. I have focused on business growth for the majority of my career. Three years ago, I shifted my focus to succession planning and business transition, mainly focusing on the business owner’s mindset and helping them identify their goals not only for their business but the value that they want their lives to have when they begin to spend less time working.

How does Transition Point Business Advisors play a role in the succession planning process?

My role is to help the decision makers and/or families clarify their goals and identify the challenges that are preventing them from making decisions. As soon as the conversation gets started, there’s almost always something that comes out that not everyone was aware of including concerns over fairness, inequality, disharmony, and if the next leaders are ready and capable.

When sitting down with a client, we work through the following steps:

1. Clarify goals in the transition
2. Tackle challenges that arise – keep things moving forward
3. Deal with underlying issues (i.e., fears, anxieties, issues from the past, etc.)

What is the biggest myth you encounter when assisting clients with their succession plan?

People often delay talking about succession due to the fear of creating disharmony they don’t want to deal with. However, the earlier they start talking about it and making it part of the company culture, the easier the transition is. When people talk about it over time and know what to expect, it ends up being more about strategy and tactics. When it’s put off, it boils under the surface; there’s often a lot of uncertainty between the parties. Early and well-timed planning also shifts the owner’s mindset earlier, and they focus on empowering leaders earlier, planning for the logistics and strategies.

What advice would you give to someone preparing their succession plan? (Besides starting early)

  • Don’t exclude people who should be in the conversation. Include everyone right at the start (i.e., in-laws, younger children, etc.) – whatever problem you think you’re avoiding by leaving those parties out will become a bigger problem later.
  • Never underestimate the importance of the professionals you work with. It’s vital to involve people with experience in succession and transition who are comfortable collaborating with other professionals and learning/sharing ideas – this provides better solutions.

Succession planning involves a team of professionals, including:

  • An attorney who understands estate work and succession planning
  • A CPA who is experienced in succession planning and tax planning; they bring expertise in analyzing numbers and the tax ramifications of certain decisions
  • A financial planner to help participate in the strategy and impact on personal financial situations
  • A lender to help with the buyer’s side of the transaction