As we begin a client relationship, one of the questions that often comes up concerns what happens to the accountant, banker, lawyer, and insurance advisors that have become friends, neighbors, and trusted advisors over the years. “Do I have to fire them?”

Well, no. Of course not. You should know and believe, however, that your team is giving you the best available advice in their specific areas of responsibility. After all, you and your spouse have put a lot of time, money, and energy into getting where you are. Some people would call that sacrifice. We call it insuring a legacy for generations still to come.

So, how do you protect that legacy? Because succession planning adds value to every type of business, you need to be as picky about your advisors as you are about what vendors you use. That means you need a team of professionals working only on your behalf.

But before you pick that team, spend some time alone and with key family members to think out your basic succession objectives. This provides a foundation for the overall planning process. This may seem elementary, however; knowing where you want to go makes it more likely that you will get there. It adds a level of commitment that will otherwise be missing.

When it comes to picking the players, we suggest that you include your accountant or CPA; an attorney who stays current with tax and estate law; business and family advisors; and people who know financial products, approaches, and strategies that allow your heirs to inherit and keep the business until time for them to pass it on to another generation. It is imperative that one of the members of your team is highly experienced in dealing with the interdendencies of the factors impacting your business’ continued success such as:  strategic financial planning; business financial planning; estate planning; estate tax; estate tax financing; successor manager development; building the family business team; and family communications – to the immediate family, the active in-laws, the passive in-laws, and distant relatives.

Assembling a team with this knowledge base is essential. They will help you develop overall objectives, address cash flow needs, time commitment, the capabilities of your children, availability of support staff, estate issues, and the general marketplace.

Within your team, you will need a planning leader or coordinator to make sure that people are moving ahead. This person may need to keep notes, follow up with family members and supporting advisors, and preventing expensive mishaps because everybody thought somebody was doing something. As the team begins to work for you, make sure they are staying focused on your objectives. Have the leader maintain an action agenda that clearly identifies the steps to be taken, who is responsible for getting them done, when it will be done, who is available as a resource, and the outcome of the completed action step. Additionally, meet periodically with your planning leader to monitor progress and get feedback related to possible changes created by Congress, family circumstances, finances or personal interests.

You have complete control over your succession planning. Use it to your advantage.

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