Navigating business succession in Emery Village

By Al Ruggero

Recently, staff from Emery Village BIA attended the annual OBIAA (Ontario Business

Improvement Area Association) Conference held in Mississauga.

While the conference provides an opportunity to learn from specialists in various fields that

inform our work at the BIA, this year’s event drew my attention to a unique seminar given by

Frank Miele, an instructor in Economic Development who teaches at Toronto Metropolitan

University’s School of Urban and Regional Planning.

His topic was Business Succession Planning, a process often overlooked in the busy lives of

many of our numerous family-run businesses, but important nonetheless, as many founders and

operators of enterprises reach retirement age or seek new direction for their future lives.

In Emery Village, our BIA is fortunate to have so many family-run businesses with a long history

and legacy, built on entrepreneurs with perseverance, hard work, and success. We have also

witnessed retirements, transitions to family members taking over, and sometimes the sale or

closure of the business due to retirement. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has, in many cases,

accelerated decisions on the part of ownership to leave the business earlier than they

forecasted. Frank Miele had some advice to help business owners considering succession.

Here are some takeaways from his presentation:

Setting an end goal with a smooth transition, whether through family succession or sale,

requires careful planning preceded by strategic foresight and a road map of sorts to achieve

desired results while avoiding potential pitfalls.

In cases where family members are involved or potentially interested in taking over, it is

important to assess their competencies and aspirations and any potential for conflicts to arise.

Just handing the keys over to the next generation is not always in everyone’s interest and

sometimes leads to rifts, disappointment, and possible failure, especially if the family member

taking over does not want to run the business and is especially reluctant to disappoint their

father (or mother). Sometimes the transition is fraught with unanticipated stresses to the

operation, business model, or the bottom line. Expect the unexpected when it comes to the

emotional impact of your decision, so plan accordingly and enlist ambassadors who will help sell

your plan to others when the time is right.

Communication becomes key, and not just within the family orbit. Bring in the professionals as

early as required before embarking on your plan.

If you decide to explore the sale of the business, perform a thorough evaluation and set a

realistic price, especially if you plan an early exit. Don’t neglect to prepare detailed

documentation of the business and include the strengths, successes, and the positive aspects.