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The Great-West Life Assurance Company, London Life Insurance Company and The Canada Life Assurance Company have become one company – The Canada Life Assurance Company. Discover the new Canada Life

The Great-West Life Assurance Company, London Life Insurance Company and The Canada Life Assurance Company have become one company – The Canada Life Assurance Company. Discover the new Canada Life

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Succession planning can help your business transition to new ownership

Key takeaways

  • Succession planning is the process of deciding how your business will run when you're no longer in charge.
  • If you’re a small business owner and you haven’t made a succession plan, now is a good time to start.  
  • You can help your company change ownership smoothly with careful business succession planning in Canada.

An introduction to succession planning 

A Prince Edward Island potato farmerOpens a new website in a new window didn't start talking about retirement until he was 80 years old and had been diagnosed with dementia. This is not unlike many small business owners who haven’t started a succession plan. 

According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)Opens a new website in a new window, only 1 in 10 business owners have a formal succession plan in place. 

Taking the steps today to make a succession plan can help ensure your business keeps running smoothly.

An ownership change is one of the most important moments in your life as an entrepreneur. When the time comes, handing over the company with a careful exit strategy can help you keep the value of your business – and your legacy.

Why does planning matter?

A good plan lets you keep positive connections with employees and business partners, which may be especially important if those relationships are with family. 

You should also make sure your business is solid and has good prospects to get the sale price you want.

Succession planning helps you:

  • Protect the legacy of your business.
  • Maintain a service for your community.
  • Build value for your business.
  • Provide financial security for your family and stakeholders.
  • Deal with unexpected events (illness, accident or death).
  • Prepare for the future.

A leadership change can also be challenging for employees, suppliers and customers. Make sure your strategy includes a communications plan for your business partners and team members to help keep everyone informed during the transition. It’s also important to keep your business running smoothly.

When should you start?

How about today? Today’s a good day to start planning if you expect to leave your business within the next 5 years.

Even if your business is new, having a plan in place helps ensure you’re prepared for the unexpected.  

According to experts, transitions can take up to 5 years to complete and, in the case of a family business, as many as 10 depending on the organization’s size or how complicated it is.

With family businesses, relationships and emotions can make things more complicated. This is because most people aren’t that comfortable talking about aging, death and their finances. 

Who’s best to replace you – and when?

Whether you want to pass your business to a family member, an employee or an outsider, you’ll need to consider the skills and qualifications they’ll need to run the business, which can take years. 

Once you’ve chosen your successor, a transition plan will address the training they need.

Who do you need to support you?

You don’t have to do it alone. Experts are available to help with succession planning. The use of professionals is important to the success of a small business, including its transfer to another owner.

They can provide knowledge and expertise in areas where you may have little experience. They can also round out your management team to ensure your business is working effectively.

Professionals that may be able to help with your succession planning include: 

What’s your exit plan?

Your choice of successor, the structure of your business and working with the professionals listed above will help you work through your transfer.  

How you transfer your business – to a family member or through a cash or financing sale, for example – will help you determine the timeline for exiting the business.

What's next?

  • While planning for the future of your business, you may want to think about your personal estate planningOpens in a new window at the same time.  
  • With all the helpful resources available – many of them free – there’s no time like today to plan for the future.

This material is for information purposes only and shouldn’t be construed as providing legal or tax advice. Every effort has been made to ensure its accuracy, but errors and omissions are possible. All comments related to taxation are general in nature and are based on current Canadian tax legislation and interpretations for Canadian residents, which are subject to change. For individual circumstances, consult with your tax, legal or accounting professionals. This information is provided by The Canada Life Assurance Company and is current as of date of publication.  

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