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Retiring from your own business? We call it succession/exit planning….


You’ve coddled your business and steered it through good and hard times. You’ve taken fine care of it and in return, it has rewarded you with a reasonable income by which you took care of your family. You’re aging and coming to terms with either the limits of your mortality, health or stage of life and are looking to step back from the business. You want to hand over the reins, but sorting out the next heir may not be as apparent as you had hoped. You realise there is more to planning than determining tax implications or pension plans. Can you actually let go the reins and will the new handler continue to stay the course?


Let’s say there is a reasonable heir to the throne. The issue becomes, can you let go? To most long time business developers/operators, their business is their baby. The business has been nurtured and matured. Your guidance and tutelage has gotten it to where it is today. Letting go is then like letting go of a part of yourself. After years of personal investment, let alone financial, it feels like your whole being is wrapped up with the business. Letting go creates a sense of loss, trepidation, abandonment, not to mention an impending emptiness in your own life. To let go successfully, you will have to have some degree of faith in your succession plan and you will have to not only mourn the loss of your relationship to your work, but find new venues for investing your time.


Let’s say that you are able to let go, but you are ambivalent about your heir to the throne. Your ambivalence may reflect concerns about the competency of your chosen heir or perhaps the stability of the person’s intimate relationship or even relationships amongst other family members. To let go in this context, you may have to look at developing the competencies of the heir apparent and/or providing supports for relationship issues or even some form of family counselling/guidance to facilitate adjustment and change.


There are occasions however where the apparent heir to the throne is an inadequate choice, for whatever reason or more simply, an heir is non-existent. In circumstances such as these, succession planning may look more like developing a full exit strategy. You may have to sell the business and consider how you want to manage your wealth or the distribution thereof. You may need to concern yourself with your family members’ ability to manage a windfall and in view of issues; you may find yourself choosing between lump sum payments and structured annuities.


Clearly we are not discussing changing jobs or simply retiring. Handing over the reins to a personal business, no matter what the strategy, will be filled with potential pratfalls, be they personal, interpersonal, legal and most assuredly also financial.


The key to successful succession or exit planning is having access to a broad range of services to manage all the processes; financial, legal, personal and interpersonal. This is considered a “systemic approach.” Whichever institution you chose to work with, reasonable due diligence on your part would include engaging an institution that offers this broad array of services with this systemic approach.  For your strategy to be a success, it must be so on all levels.


Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
(905) 628-4847


Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead and the parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator. His book, Marriage Rescue is due out in spring 2013. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.




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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
(905) 628-4847  


Gary Direnfeld is a social worker in private practice. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider Gary an expert on child development, parent-child relations, marital and family therapy, custody and access recommendations, social work and an expert for the purpose of giving a critique on a Section 112 (social work) report.


Call Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.


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For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.


Are you the parent of new teen driver?  Check out this teen safe driving program: www.ipromiseprogram.com


27 Sina Street, Georgina, ON, Canada L4P 3E9 Tel: (905) 628-4847 Email: gary@yoursocialworker.com