A recent study revealed that only about 28 percent of family businesses have developed a succession plan. Here are a few tips for family-owned businesses to ponder when considering selling the business:
- You may have to consider a lower price if maintaining jobs for family members is important.
- Make sure that your legal and accounting representatives have “deal” experience. Too many times, the outside advisers have been with the business since the beginning and just are not “deal” savvy.
- Keep in mind that family members who stay with the buyer(s) will most likely have to answer to new management, an outside board of directors and/or outside investors.
- All family members involved either as employees and/or investors in the business must be in agreement regarding the sale of the company. They must also be in agreement about price and terms of the sale.
- Confidentiality in the sale of a family business is a must.
- Meetings should be held off-site and selling documentation kept off-site, if possible.
- Family owners should appoint one member who can speak for everyone. If family members have to be involved in all decision-making, delays are often created, causing many deals to fall apart.
Many experts in family-owned businesses suggest that a professional intermediary be engaged by the family to handle the sale. Intermediaries are aware of the critical time element and can help sellers locate experienced outside advisers. They can also move the sales process along as quickly as possible and assist in negotiations.
Keeping it in the Family
It’s hard to transfer a family business to a younger kin. Here are some statistics* regarding family businesses in the United States, but the information correlates to Canada:
- 30% of family businesses pass to a second generation.
- 10% of family businesses reach a third generation.
- 40% to 60% of owners want to keep firms in their family.
- 28% of family businesses have developed a succession plan.
- 80% to 95% of all businesses are family owned.
*Source: Ted Clark, Northeastern University Center for Family Business
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