Business succession checklist: 20 Steps to a seamless transition

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When the time comes to hand over the reins of your company, a timely and thorough succession plan can help ensure you, your family and your business will continue to thrive after the transition. Developing your succession plan well before it’s needed is the most critical success factor; however, there are a healthy number of tasks to complete as you prepare for this milestone. 

As founders devote significant time and effort to their vision, target market and company culture, often little time remains for activities such as succession planning. In an August 2021 survey of 580 members of the Society for Human Resource Management, 56 percent said their organization didn’t have a succession plan in place. Only 21 percent reported having a formal plan, while 24 percent said their organization had an informal plan.1  

Even during the early stages of your company’s trajectory, time spent considering your succession plan can have a considerable impact your long-term success.  

To get you get your succession planning started, we’ve compiled a list of essential elements to consider before transitioning out of your business.  

Planning for an upcoming liquidity event? Read: Tips for personal financial planning before an IPO 

Personal preferences 

  • Decide on an outright sale or a transition to the next generation of your family 
  • Determine your family members’ desire and capabilities to own/manage the business 
  • Reflect on the post-sale stage of your life 
  • Consider the level of involvement/control you wish to have in the business post-sale 
  • Determine how to maintain your sense of purpose with the changes in your daily responsibilities 
  • Align your intentions with your spouse regarding the business 

Surprising succession stats – 65% of firms polled in a Stanford University survey have not asked internal candidates whether they are interested in ascending to the CEO position.2 

Business considerations 

  • Establish the most effective company structure for your transition 
  • Review the current industry trends and competitive landscape of your business 
  • Research the type of buyers that may be interested in purchasing your business to help with goal alignment 

Surprising succession stats – Recent CEO turnover is the highest it has been in 20 years, with the average tenure of a CEO being less than five years.3 

Financial matters 

  • Accurately calculate the value of your interest in the business  
  • Understand what your personal finances will look like post-sale 
  • Determine your ongoing income requirements 
  • Revisit your medium- to long-term financial plans 
  • Revise your estate planning documentation  
  • Revise your personal investment strategies 
  • Communicate your revised financial plans to family members and  loved ones 

Surprising succession stats – More than 74% of leaders report they are unprepared and lack the training for the challenges they face in their roles.4 

Support teams 

  • Assemble an industry advisor team to help validate your plans and decisions regarding the business 
  • Connect and revise plans with your professional services team including: 
    • Tax specialists
    • Estate planning experts
    • Investment advisors
    • Investment bankers
    • Attorneys
    • Family office consultants

Surprising succession stats – 86% of leaders believe leadership succession planning is of utmost importance; however, only 14% think their organization does it well.5 

Timing & taxes 

  • Develop/revisit your estate tax plan 
    • In most cases, a successful business transition is heavily dependent on thorough estate planning
  • Allow ample time to execute your succession plans prior to transfer 
    • Having succession plans in place years in advance of a sale offers financial advantages and peace of mind

Surprising succession stats – Only half of companies surveyed have documented the skills required for the next CEO.6 

Additional succession planning information 

For additional information regarding business succession, read our article “Are you contemplating or about to sell your business?” to delve further into the issues we touched on today, such as corporate structure, expense management and wealth transformation.  

Develop your succession plan with our team of experts 

As we’ve discussed, creating and implementing succession plans takes time as well as a dedicated team with a full understanding of your personal and professional goals. If you would like a partner to help you develop a succession plan that suits your needs, contact an SVB Private Wealth Advisor to get started. 

As your primary contact, your SVB Private Wealth Advisor can help transform your needs into an actionable plan and connect you with the additional professionals you’ll need for a smooth transition. Reach out today and let’s get to work on your succession plan.  


The views expressed in the article are those of the author and/or person interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the views of Silicon Valley Bank, a division of First-Citizens Bank and First Citizens BancShares, Inc. The materials on this website are for informational purposes only, are subject to change and do not take into account your particular investment objective, financial situation or need. Since each client’s situation is unique, you should consult your financial advisor and/or tax planning professional before acting on any information provided herein.