Managing a business succession

Planning is vital for the smooth handover of a business, whether it's to senior managers or family members. You should consider your own needs, those of your family, the situation in terms of senior management and employees, plus any other shareholders with an interest. The HR part of the business is important in handling any decisions, as is communicating plans to the employees and clients without causing alarm or fear. There will be various implications in terms of tax, shareholdings and estate planning.

  • Plan ahead
  • Consider all interested parties
  • Consult and communicate

Senior management

You may have an ambitious deputy. It may be the sales director is talking up future growth potential. If someone from inside the organisation is the right person to take the helm, discussions need to be had and plans agreed. This will ensure a smooth handover and potentially allay any concerns from clients and staff. The financial implications need to be understood by all, plus you need to think whether a change in management will have a detrimental impact on the business. A non-exec's or advisor's perspective could prove vital.

  • Talk to interested parties
  • Don't forget clients
  • Get external advice

Family affair

Most businesses in the UK are family firms. But handing over the reigns to the next generation requires careful planning: we're talking years, rather than months. First consider the impact on the family and equity between siblings - getting it wrong can lead to animosity. Which sibling is right for which job? Putting the oldest in charge simply on age alone isn't sensible. Whoever takes the helm will need to have experience and often require a degree of management training. It is also important to bear in mind the thoughts of senior management and impact on employees.

  • Training and education
  • Communicating plans
  • Impact on employees


Bear in mind any succession will have on employees. Communicate plans to them. Any change brings with it insecurity and staff may look to you and senior managers for reassurance. Plus senior people may not all be happy about the changes - get it out in the open. Explain what is happening and leave employees in no doubt. Human resource managers and staff are key and should be up-to-date with developments and be ready to help you communicate them to employees.

  • Communicate with employees
  • Reassure staff


Changing the man or woman at the top may give clients concerns. They may be investing in your leadership or simply feel comfortable with you at the helm. Keep them informed and explain to them why the succession is good for the business and good for them. It's important to be transparent as possible. If doubts are left to build, it can bring insecurity and make have a detrimental impact on your business and its growth.

  • Communicate with clients
  • Explain benefits
  • Be transparent

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