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Ready to Retire? Consider These Questions Before Deciding on a Transition Plan

If succession is the goal, it could get tricky without a solid course of action.




IN REAL ESTATE, the most important consideration is location. In family businesses, it’s transition, especially when the goal is succession. It is inevitable that owners will leave their business one way or another. You can leave it with pride if you create a transition plan that makes sense for you and your successors. Or you can leave it in failure by not planning properly or at all. How you choose to leave it is entirely up to you.

1. The Ultimate Business Challenge. For most family business owners, determining the best exit strategy, transition opportunity, or succession plan is the ultimate business challenge. It is also the most important decision-making process that controlling owners must force themselves to do. I specifically use the word force because business transition is a grind that most owners would prefer to ignore. Unfortunately, many do avoid it, and the result often becomes decisions made by lawyers, accountants, and sometimes the government.

2. Why Must Plans Be Made? There are two key reasons why planning is critical. First, there is the financial aspect. Owners work hard to build a business over several decades, so realization of the financial reward for doing so is important. Logic tells us that plans must be made in order to ensure an owner’s security in retirement and ultimately minimize estate taxes. Owners have a number of business transition options, but maximizing the financial return on investment is a high priority. One question to ask is how you can get the most out of your business under the most favorable terms and conditions. Another is how much you really need if your goal is to transition your business to a son or daughter or close relative.

The second reason planning is critical is the personal impact of transitioning the business. As practical as it is to want to retire comfortably, concerns about leaving the business, who to leave it to, how that affects family relationships, and how it impacts you emotionally are all vital. Letting go of a business that you have spent a lifetime building — and into which you have invested a considerable amount of self-esteem — is often a very troubling experience, even if the goal is to leave the company to your son or daughter. And if closing down the business is the alternative you choose, the emotions surrounding such finality in a company that may have existed for generations are even more painful.

Planning for your business transition is not the end of your responsibilities as a business owner; it’s more like the beginning of the end. And it isn’t easy, unless you have something to look forward to, like travel, hobbies, relief from the daily grind, and a flexible schedule that should be the envy of almost any retirement-age person. If you need help thinking this process through, reach out to someone you trust who can provide thoughtful advice.


Bill Boyajian is the former long-time president of the Gemological Institute of America and is currently founder and CEO of Bill Boyajian & Associates, Inc., which specializes in leadership, business, organizational development, family transition, and succession planning. Contact him at



When There’s No Succession Plan, Call Wilkerson

Bob Wesley, owner of Robert C. Wesley Jewelers in Scottsdale, Ariz., was a third-generation jeweler. When it was time to enjoy life on the other side of the counter, he weighed his options. His lease was nearing renewal time and with no succession plan, he decided it was time to call Wilkerson. There was plenty of inventory to sell and at first, says Wesley, he thought he might try to manage a sale himself. But he’s glad he didn’t. “There’s no way I could have done this as well as Wilkerson,” he says. Wilkerson took responsibility for the entire event, with every detail — from advertising to accounting — done, dusted and managed by the Wilkerson team. “It’s the complete package,” he says of the Wilkerson method of helping jewelers to easily go on to the next phase of their lives. “There’s no way any retailer can duplicate what they’ve done.”

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