In talking with members at the 2017 Annual Meeting in Chicago, the topic of ownership succession kept surfacing, and it was clear that many owners are thinking about what will happen to their businesses down the road.
It isn’t that we want members to sell their firms—far from it! But it is important for them to have a plan in place, so there can be a smooth transition in the future, and they receive maximum value for the business, even if that is years down the road. We want members to be aware of all their options, including how to keep their firms independent. That’s why Selected has embarked on a program to help members with this challenging task. We want to make it easier for members to get the support they need.
Beginning in January 2018, we will be hosting a series of webinars that offer best practices in developing and implementing a sound succession plan. The webinars will cover what should be done to prepare for eventual sale or transition, establishing the value of a firm that both buyer and seller can agree on, and what a smooth selling process actually looks like.
The first webinars are scheduled for January 17 and February 21. Presenters will be Tim Bridgers and Chris Farmer. [An interview with them can be found here.] A third webinar, featuring Jake Johnson, will be held March 8. [An article by Johnson appears here.] These webinars will be excellent opportunities for members to lay the groundwork for their own plans.
Selected also is working on additional programing for future Annual Meetings as well as other educational opportunities based on feedback from the membership. We are preparing supplemental materials and resources that will be available to members on Selected’s website. And I’m planning to conduct interviews with our members who already have bought and sold firms, to share what worked well for them and what they would do differently. The result will be that members of Selected will have the necessary information available to them, so they can make sound ownership succession decisions.
Planning for succession can be a very sensitive time for owners. They don’t want word getting out prematurely that their business may be up for sale or that they are looking to retire. But this caution also can prevent them from exploring options or engaging helpful resources. And the process often can be exacerbated by stressful family dynamics. People want to avoid that, so they end up putting the whole thing off until it’s too late.
I think most members of Selected would prefer for their firms to remain independent, but some owners may not have another generation coming up in the business, or they don’t have an employee in a position to take over. They may not know how to reach out to other interested independents. Sometimes, the easiest thing to do is just sell to a corporate entity.
Having a good plan in place prior to actual need (sound familiar?) reduces stress when it comes time to sell, whether that’s five years down the road or 30. Owners can rest assured, knowing they have considered all their options and have valued their assets properly.
And by going through the process now, it actually can help the funeral home—right now. Proper succession planning can alert owners to areas of their business that may need improvement, because it requires them to look at the funeral home from a different perspective. Enhancing the efficiency and stability of the operation can have an amazing impact on its long-term value. A succession plan is as important as any other strategic business plan. It makes the firm stronger and sets a clear direction for the future.
I encourage all members to participate in the upcoming webinars. They are a convenient and confidential way to begin making plans or enhancing existing ones. Members should contemplate what they currently have in place or what their desires are for their business, so that they can approach this topic with an open mind. They may discover something they hadn’t thought of.
And that’s one of Selected’s main goals—to ensure that members have as much information as possible and are thinking through all their options. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work, that long-term planning often can get overlooked. But having a solid plan in place for the funeral home’s future can be one of the most important things an owner ever does.