Minding Mom & Pop’s Shop: Five Steps to the Succession of Your Family Business

Succession planning for a family business is often no easy task. Recently, an article in Forbes outlined the five necessary steps for a viable succession plan. The five steps include:

English: Demise of a family business? Coulson ...
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  1. Planning for the general transition of the business: The article notes that only one third of family businesses successfully make this transition.
  2. Creating a plan that aligns the family interests: This is important because the succession of a business must serve many family goals. Not only must it pass the business on to the next generation, but it must also provide a retirement income for the current owners.
  3. Creating a buyout agreement that balances financial returns: Often it is difficult to value a family business. While the retiring owner may look to the balance sheets for the value, the real value of the business is often based on a model of earnings capitalization.
  4. Creating a succession plan that quells any potential interfamily disputes: Often, interfamily disputes can spell the end of a family business. These disputes are most typical where the interests of all family members are not aligned. Pay particular attention when there is a divorce or death that leaves a non-involved family member stock.
  5. Avoid potential estate and inheritance issues, such as tax and probate delays that may hold up the succession of the business.  

Succession Plans for Franchises

Although most people do not enter into a franchise agreement with the goal of creating a family business, children are increasingly choosing to succeed their parents in owning the family franchise. However, the International Franchise Association (“IFA”) reports that only 30 percent of family-owned franchises survive into a second generation. A recent article in Entrepreneur discusses how franchise owners can best prepare for a successful succession.

Succession plans for franchises are inherently difficult because the franchisor generally yields veto power over any proposed succession, and is the sole decider of whether a person is qualified to succeed his or her parents as a franchise owner. According to attorney and co-author of the IFA handbook William Slater Vincent, Franchise Succession Planning and Transfers, “I’ve worked with franchises from over 100 systems, and every single franchise agreement I’ve seen clearly states that if the franchise owner dies, the franchisor has to approve the successor.” Such provisions mainly serve as a protective mechanism for the franchisor. Said Vincent, “I don’t know how many times a husband dies and his wife takes over the business even though she was never involved before. Instead of being a viable business, it becomes an asset sale. Franchisors don’t want that.”

Each franchise has a different protocol for succession planning. These protocols range from not paying attention, to allowing local reps to sign off on proposed successions, to requiring that successors undergo rigorous training akin to that of a new a franchisee. The key to creating a successful succession plan, therefore, is speaking to your franchisor about any succession requirements, and creating a plan that qualifies your chosen successor in the eyes of the franchisor.