You built your SME with your sweat of your brow and plan to pass the torch in the next three to five years. Some key employees could become the ideal buyers to ensure your enterprise’s sustainability.
In some regions of Quebec and in several activity sectors, the work force shortage is a major issue that requires SMEs to be quite agile. In this respect, an effective and timely succession plan is a very useful tool to retain the best talent within the organization.
Some of your best-performing employees could therefore be involved in the eventual transaction, becoming future shareholders. To this end, communication between the transferor and potential buyers must be clearly established. The current business owners must indicate their intentions. If they want to leave the organization in five years, they need to be up front about it. Nowadays, business succession is no longer just a family matter.
Therefore, have the courage to discuss the issue directly with those you think could eventually take over internally. Three steps make it easier to complete this transition project.
A– Identify key employees
Have the employees you’re considering established a career plan? Do they have the requisite entrepreneurial skills? What are their professional goals? These discussions set the stage for the next steps. For example, you could give targeted employees a few management assignments in advance to gauge their interest and see if they have the right job profile.
These additional responsibilities assigned over time can also facilitate the transfer of authority. The financial capacity of the buyers to obtain the required financing should also be considered. They can then benefit from a gradual integration into the shareholding structure. At the same time, the buyers will increase their participation in the organization.
B– Get help
Entrepreneurs obviously can’t do everything alone. People who transfer ownership of a company they’ve been running for 25 years sometimes think they can navigate the transfer maze on their own. Beware of this wishful thinking. The support of a specialist can make all the difference in the development of a succession plan. Using an external resource ensures that you have a fresh perspective on the situation. And what could be better than to be able to count on leading-edge expertise to leave nothing to chance?
Lastly, remember that a business transfer is not something you can improvise. By relying on a specialized team, you can anticipate potential problems and gradually transfer the required knowledge. Transferors should not disappear overnight following the conclusion of the transaction.
C– Ensure a smooth transition
Over time, potential buyers will put their own stamp on the business. The transferor and buyer should expect an overlap during the transition process. It is not uncommon to see the buyer get involved during the first year following the transfer and even to hold the position of board chair. This type of transfer doesn’t just take place at the time of the visit to the notary’s office: rather, it is spread over a period of time.
You have to trust the leaders you choose to carry out the process. They may have different methods, but you have to accept these differences. For their part, buyers must understand that it is a part of yourself that you’re leaving in their hands.
Get employees involved and ensure their loyalty
If you plan to withdraw from the business, state your intention early enough to allow for the development of a proper succession plan.
By letting it be known that there are opportunities for advancement as a result of your eventual departure, you give key employees a chance to demonstrate their interest and skills and, perhaps, invest their energy in ensuring the sustainability of “their” SME. That way, you can be sure that you can count on your best collaborators in the coming years.