The pool and spa market has taken a huge hit
from the economy, and many business owners have given up on the
idea of retiring, or even selling their companies for a
But Zev Grossman, a retirement-planning specialist with AXA
Advisors in New York, says that while the economy may look grim
now, that’s no reason to abandon planning for the
Here, he explains how company owners can begin thinking about the
big picture in an environment that requires so many to focus on
Create a detailed retirement picture.
Too many people figure they can worry about retirement later, but
it doesn’t work that way. It takes time and planning to
create enough equity in your company to attract a buyer, or to find
and train a successor.
“To successfully sell a business in this environment is
critical,” Grossman says. “In order to do that, you
have to be strategic and deliberate.”
Envisioning retirement is a good start, but that alone isn’t
enough. It’s also important to put plans and expectations
“There’s something very concrete about a written plan
that doesn’t exist when it’s only in your head,”
Grossman says. “We consistently find that clients who have a
more successful strategy are those who work with an adviser, go
through a formal planning process and generate a financial
In fact, he adds, Harvard Business School tracked some of its MBA
graduates to see how they performed. Only a small percentage had
some sort of written life plan or business plan; but they were much
more successful than those who didn’t. “Maybe part of
it is just that if you have the discipline to write it down, maybe
you have the discipline to execute it. But it’s also true
that when you start to write it down, you begin to see how parts integrate,” he says.
It’s also important to assemble a good advisory team,
including an attorney, financial planner, insurance adviser and
CPA, Grossman says.
The earlier you do this, the better. Grossman tells of a client who
needed his business to quadruple in size before he could retire.
“He had 10 years to do it, and as we put together his plan,
it became clear that this was possible. But it couldn’t have
been done in two years.”
Conversely, many company owners think they can worry about the sale
of their business just a couple of years before they want it to
happen. But at that point there’s no time left to do any real
strategic or infrastructure changes, and any alterations are really
just enhancing curb-appeal.
Get back to working on your business.
In this economy, many company owners have been forced back into
managing day-to-day concerns. But it’s still essential to
take the time to plan for a successful sale in order to ensure your
“You have to make the difficult decision to take some of your
highly valued time and do something that is not an immediate
revenue-generator,” he explains. “Planning has
traditionally been a challenge for many people in
Choose a successor ASAP.
There haven’t been many positives to come out of this
recession, but Grossman cites one: Finding a successor may actually
be easier now.
Today, many children of business owners who originally said they
didn’t want to take over the company are re-thinking that
decision. “When you graduated business school and could make
10 times what your parents ever conceived of earning, why would you
be in the family business?” he says. “But when you
graduate college and can’t get a job, you look at your
parents’ business and think, ‘That’s what paid
for my education. Maybe I need to consider my parents’ offer
to join the business.”
But regardless of whether a son or daughter takes over, there will
still be more high-quality talent available to consider for a
In today’s job market, even entry-level positions can be
filled with a skilled professional, although hiring an
overqualified individual may involve risk. “But now you have
somebody who’s looking for more,” Grossman says.
“Maybe that’s the person who eventually is your