Succession planner, exit planner and family business advisor are terms often used interchangeably providing the assumption that they all share the same meaning. While the exit planner and family business advisor endeavor to address some components of succession planning, there is a clear distinction between their limited scope and the comprehensive mission of a succession planner.  

Succession Planner

The mission of the succession planner is to provide for the continued success of the business THROUGH the next generation of owners and managers in light of predictable, probable and possible interdependent contingencies. The role of the succession planner is to facilitate succession through the assessment of the ten interdependent aspects of the Succession Matrix®. The succession planner collaboratively leads the advisor team in confirming succession contingencies, developing a plan for the achievement of succession goals and deploying an action agenda for the fulfillment of the business owner’s confirmed goals. The succession planner may be a certified expert in one or more professional disciplines of the Succession Matrix such as finance, law, family therapy, human resources, or strategic planning; whereas, the succession planner has to have adequate knowledge and understanding in ALL factors of the Succession Matrix to serve as a leader in coordinating the talents and services of all advisors on the succession planning team. 

Business owners understand that the value of their business is dependent on the probability of the continued success of their business and therein understand that through working with a succession planner to address all components of the Succession Matrix, succession planning will build and protect business value.

Exit Planner

The exit planner is concentrated on the transactional process of exiting a business and the financial and legal considerations that impact the process. Exit planning is tied very closely to merger and acquisition activity, wealth management and estate planning.  Most often, in this process, the soft issues of the Succession Matrix are unaddressed, which can critically impact the achievement of a business owner’s goals, the value of the business, and the opportunity for an exit planner to add value through their services.  From a succession planning perspective, exit planners have the opportunity to enhance their practice through focusing on issues above and beyond the exit, and shift their mentality to think in terms of the continuation of success THROUGH the next generation, as defined by the owner in terms of both finances and culture. 

Family Business Advisor

A family business advisor handles issues regarding family ownership and management—aspects that make up a small part of the Succession Matrix. Notably, the family business advisor thinks of family in the traditional sense, while the succession planner considers family to be two or more people choosing to be in business together for reasons beyond money. The family business advisor thinks in terms of the continuation of the family in business, whereas the succession planner thinks in terms of the continuation of a successful business owned and managed by family members as defined by their common passion for and commitment to the business.   


Exit planners and family business advisors provide a valuable, talent-dependent service, generally in response to specifically expressed needs. However, their focus is mostly geared toward business continuity versus business succession, and their limited scope provides opportunities for them to enhance their practice through understanding the Succession Matrix. The succession planner assumes a broader, long-term responsibility focused on addressing the needs and concerns of all those who have a vested interest in the continued success of the business through the next generation of owners and managers. 

 Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to stay informed on how to overcome related succession planning issues.