Business succession planning

By David Scrivener, Ensors

Building a business has many parallels with completing a construction project.

Published in Essex Director Magazine Summer | Autumn 2023

Accountancy: Ensors Chartered Accountants

To get started you need the right materials, reliable people, and a clear plan. These need to be in place before you begin to lay the foundations. For it to be a commercial success, you should also consider other key factors like timing, location, and demand.

Once the business has been ‘built’, and the owner-manager has grown it over a period of time, there will come a point when it is appropriate to consider the next stage: succession planning. This can take many forms: handing it over to the next generation in a family business, an MBO by a management team, or a sale to a third party.

Selling to a third party, whether a trade buyer or a financial investor, requires careful planning and preparation.

Making the business fit for sale, much like making a property fit to occupy, requires some finishing touches. However, instead of fixtures and fittings, a buyer of a company will be interested in the core elements of the business. What does the business do well? Why should they buy it? Where will the buyer be able to unlock value?

Giving confidence to whoever takes over

A strong system of controls gives confidence over the financial results presented and reduces the risk of historical errors. Regular financial reporting provides an up-to-date picture of the business’s performance. It also demonstrates that the existing leadership has a finger on the pulse.

Forward-looking financial information helps to paint a more complete picture of the business that the buyer is considering. Knowing where a business expects to be is often the key to assessing its value.

A strong management team also gives a buyer confidence in a business. This is something that cannot be scrambled together ahead of a planned business sale. Instead, it requires time and effort to foster talent within a team of dedicated managers and directors, who can run the business and allow the founders to focus on more strategic goals.

Buyers will usually also be interested in understanding the customer base of a business. Are there written contracts and business terms? What percentage of the work is repeat business? What is the split of revenue by customer, geographic region or product type?

All of the above helps to simplify the due diligence process, giving the buyer the tools they need to assess a business acquisition opportunity. From a seller’s perspective, this confidence in the business from the buyer helps to unlock additional value in the sale.

Don’t leave succession planning too late

It is never too early to start preparing for succession. Whilst this doesn’t have to involve a detailed plan, it is worth considering how prepared the business is in each of the aforementioned areas.

If you are considering a sale or looking at another form of succession, start speaking to your advisers early. Our experienced Corporate Finance team will welcome a conversation about the areas you can build upon to put your business in the best possible position ahead of a future sale.

Business succession planning 1

David Scrivener is a Partner at Ensors Chartered Accountants

T: 01473 220081
E: david.scrivener@ensors.co.uk
Or visit www.ensors.co.uk

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