Overcoming Small Business Founder Dependence With Estate Planning
Dan Levenson October 20, 2016
One of the primary reasons many consumers prefer to frequent a small business is also one of the greatest challenges of small business: founder dependence.
Customers often remain loyal to a small company because the size of the business enables them to have direct contact with the business owner. This creates a strong sense of trust and belief in consistent quality and performance in whatever product or service the business offers.
However, nothing is forever. As your business grows and changes over time, there may come a day when you, the business owner, will have to let go of the wheel. Whether it’s by allowing your staff more control over the business or finally reaching your goal of retirement, the business must be prepared to continue—and thrive—without you.
Preparing Customers For Change
As a business grows, there is often difficulty in transitioning clientele to put their trust in the hands of employees. It is not uncommon for customers to continue to expect the business founder to be present and personally managing their transactions and needs.
Educators from Michigan State University Extension offer guidance to entrepreneurs for this small business dilemma.
First of all, they advise that from the moment a business founder opens the company’s doors, they should be planning strategically for steady growth. From day one, they should be conditioning their clientele for the day when future employees will be assisting them in the day to day work of meeting customer demands.
Preparing Yourself For Change
In addition to an adjustment to change that affects clients, it is just as common for founders to struggle with delegating duties they once performed themselves. Perhaps a business owner is hesitant to relinquish control out of fear of a lack of quality. Oftentimes, it may simply seem easier to just do it themselves rather than take the time to train someone in the task.
However, if a small business is to ever grow, the realities of demands upon time and physical limitations dictate that founders must simply entrust employees with some of their own duties. Even in the early days of business, founders must continue to remind themselves that their role will eventually change as the business grows and demands become too great for one person to bear alone.
Planning A Legacy
Entrepreneurial experts also advise founders to plan for the future when their business may transform into a family business legacy, being handed over to the next generation and continue being a community presence for the goods and services offered by a founder’s company. Estate planning is an essential responsibility for any business founder.
Business founders already have an expert estate planning resource: the company that is providing for their business insurance needs. Experienced professionals in estate planning can first explore a founder’s business philosophy and management style. Strong founders are what shape the direction of a company and establish its reputation within the local community.
Loyal customers are expecting a thriving business to remain active even in the event of a founder’s retirement or death. Although a business owner is naturally going to manage company profits to provide an active income as well as prepare for future retirement, financially planning for business as usual for the company after retirement or death must not be overlooked.
An investment plan that leaves behind sound financial footing for a future management team insures a founder’s legacy. This is how a small, independently owned company grows into a multi-generational family business.
Fine Tuning The Estate Plan
Although the financial aspect of such a plan is crucial to the success of a future transition, there are many other details to work out. Employees and staff will need to be assured of a seamless, stable transfer of power. Proper estate planning can avoid high stakes drama that can be costly in more ways than litigating who takes over the helm of a family business.
Critical loss of productivity can be devastating. Avoid future catastrophes of founder dependence. Plan properly so that business as usual can continue. Professional services will continue uninterrupted. Marketing can remain consistent as it generates traffic. Customers will remain satisfied.
To get down to the specifics of insurance products to consider, these are the two most popular for small business protection:
- Key Person Insurance: This policy protects business in the event of the loss of a key person who is instrumental to business operations. Benefits will protect business revenue that can mean the difference between staying open or closing up shop. Whether the loss is permanent or temporary, coverage enables shareholders or partners to continue to move forward.
- Directors & Officers Liability Insurance: With benefits payable to the directors and officers within a company, this policy provides a reimbursement for the loss a business suffers if a wrongful action lawsuit is filed against a company director or officer.
Through a transition of power in a small business that has grown to become founder-dependent, professional estate planning can mean the difference between success or failure. For more information on how business insurance experts can help your small business create a lasting legacy, please contact us.