Preparing Your Business for Exit or Succession While Under COVID-19 Lockdown

A discussion with Jaap Siekman, Business Transition Coach

In my books “Ready to sell your Business?” and “Who’s Investing Your Money?” I discuss how successfully planning for and ultimately selling your business will require expert help. There are so many legal, accounting, tax and insurance implications that you cannot do it all on your own.

Most business owners are busy enough without having to contemplate the complex – and sometimes unpleasant – possibility of selling or transitioning their business someday. But unless they are planning on living (or working!) forever, “then an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” You are best served by engaging a Business Transition Team to help make the process simple, easy, and effective.

A successful Business Transition Team may include multiple professionals such as an accountant, lawyer, financial planner, investment advisor, portfolio manager, insurance advisor, realtor, business broker, mergers and acquisition (M&A) advisor, business transition coach, banker, business succession planner and estate planner.

Of course, you could try to work with all these individual professionals all by yourself. However, this often leads to these advisors working in isolation from each other, resulting in conflicting advice and bad financial decisions with regards to an owners’ overall business transition objectives.

In practical terms, this may lead to a collection of investments, insurance, business, and trust structures that are fragmented, confusing, and not necessarily tax efficient. In fact, you may become vulnerable to missed opportunities, unnecessary expenses and unforeseen tax liabilities. It is not an exaggeration to say that the consequences could be catastrophic.

That is why an Integrated Transition Plan is necessary. It is the only way to ensure everything is done right, and nothing is missed. This is the role of the Corporate Wealth Advisor

In the same way that an architect helps you design and build a home or office building, a Corporate Wealth Advisor designs your “Comprehensive Wealth Plan” in coordination with a team of professionals working together to:

      • grow and protect your family wealth based on your personal financial situation, goals, comfort level, risk tolerance and needs; and
      • protect and enhance the value of your business and minimize taxes in preparation for sale or transfer of your business.

The Corporate Wealth Advisor will also build and, most importantly, coordinate (!) the Business Transition Team consisting of the multiple professionals mentioned earlier, so that you do not need to do this.

The current COVID-19 crisis has added an unprecedented level of stress and uncertainty to Small-Business owners, so I reached out to Jaap Siekman, a local Business Transition Coach, and recent addition to my Business Transition Team to get his perspective on the role that a Business Transition Coach can play to reduce some of those uncertainties during this pandemic and to guide the process of preparing a business for sale or succession.

Q: Jaap, tell me about yourself, how do you work with small-business owners? 

A: Adrian, due to an aging population, we have a growing number of small-business owners that are looking for retirement in the next few years, either through a sale of the business or through succession to the kids.

A problem that many are facing is that the management team is too reliant on the owner, which of course, is not surprising since many owners are working in their business 60-80 hours every week and make most of the decisions.

The effect is that:

      • responsibilities have not been delegated to members of the management team;
      • systems and processes are not in place.

And the ultimate end-result is that:

      • the VALUE and SELLABILITY of the business may be limited;
      • the business is quite likely to FAIL soon after the owner’s departure

As a business Transition Coach, I work with these owners to change this around.


Q: How do you do this?

A: The main component is developing a written plan that includes:

      1. Goals;
      2. Values;
      3. Current situation;
      4. Actions.

Some refer to this as a Business or Strategic Plan. I like to call it a Transformation Plan. Whatever you call it, though, the most important thing is that it gets written down and shared with, or even better, developed together with the Management Team.

Through monthly coaching, I then help the team to execute this plan and prevent the plan to end-up on the shelf.

Whenever applicable, I will lean on my 30 years of industry experience and provide suggestions for System & Process Improvements. This is a critical part of reducing reliance on the owner and build value in the business.


Q: In my books, I talk about the team of professional advisors that families need to properly manage their wealth. You mentioned that you feel that a Business Transition Coach like yourself, was missing in that picture. Can you explain this?

A: When going to several Business Exit and M&A events, I noticed that there is no lack of Accountants, Lawyers, M&A Advisors and Financial Advisors that support owners in their quest to sell their business, and even more so for those with revenue over $10-20M.

However, if your company is not sellable, or is not worth much, then there is not much that these Accountants, Lawyers etc. can do to help.


The Business Transition Coach is where the journey to retirement starts, well before any Lawyer or M&A Advisor is involved: prepare the business for an exit of the owner. This work may span 1-3 years (or longer) and will have to include the management team, the organization as a whole and its systems and processes.


Q: Jaap, why do you believe Covid-19 is relevant in all this?

A: Three things

First of all: Disaster response. Statistics have revealed that mortality rates associated with the virus are linked to age and gender, which means that male baby-boomer small-business owners are at a higher risk than younger people.

This is therefor the time for owners to think about what would happen to their business if they were to be suddenly incapacitated:

      •  Can the company stay open and fulfill its obligations to long-time clients and vendors?
      •  Will much-valued employees lose their jobs?
      •  Do the kids have the knowledge and tools to continue the business?
      •  Will the surviving spouse have sufficient financial resources for retirement?

Although this is an unpleasant topic, it would be unfair to the stakeholders to not have a “Business Continuity Plan” in place. This plan includes all relevant information and instructions that will prevent the business from closing right away if a disaster were to hit the owner or his spouse.

Second: Despair. Seeing your revenue collapse and your savings disappear. Having to layoff your employees. Not knowing whether you will be able to sell your business. These are times when having a trusted coach to talk to as a sounding board and put things into perspective can provide tremendous reassurance.

Third and last: Hope! Any disaster creates new opportunities. This is a chance to cut deadwood and embrace better things.


Q: What do you suggest small-business owners do to prepare for a transition (exit or succession)?

A: I recommend starting with an exit-readiness assessment, with questions like:

      • How reliant is the operation on you? Can you go on vacation for a week, a month, six months without checking in?
      • Is the business worth what you think it is or needs it to be?

If your conclusion is that your organization may not be ready for your exit, then start developing a written plan that outlines your goals, your current situation, the gaps between the two and an action plan and timeline to fill those gaps.

Executing this plan will require change, and implementing change sustainably, is incredibly difficult. A Business Transition Coach to guide you through the process and provide discipline is therefore highly recommendable and will pay for itself many times over.


Q: How do you help small-business owners during Covid-19?

A: SME’s are the backbone of the Canadian economy, and many may not survive the current onslaught. Especially for owners nearing retirement age, this may have catastrophic consequences.

I, therefore, offer two FREE 1-hour conversations to interested Small-Business owners, during which we can discuss:

      • The Business Continuity Plan;
      • Preparing the business for Exit or Succession;
      • System and Process improvements ;
      • Opportunities that may arise out of this COVID crisis. 


You have worked hard to build your business. When it’s time to retire, make sure you hire a Corporate Wealth Advisor to write a Comprehensive Wealth Plan and coordinate the activities of the individual professionals in your Business Transition Team. Together they can help you navigate the sale or transition of your business under the current COVID-19 crisis.

Business Transition Coach can help a business and its organization prepare for an exit of the owner and increase its VALUE and SELLABILITY.

 Jaap Siekman is a Business Transition Coach, helping business owners develop and execute a written transformation plan and implement systems & processes to improve the overall value and sellability of the business. Jaap has 30 years of Consulting, Management, Engineering & Manufacturing experience in various industries in Canada and Europe. He has been involved in many Lean and Continuous Improvement initiatives as well as Organizational Change programs. 



Adrian Spitters is a Corporate Wealth Advisor. He has more than 30 years of wealth advisory experience specializing in family business wealth planning. He is also the author of 4 books on the topics of wealth management, business and farm succession planning. Adrian works collaboratively with Business Owners and their professionals to Establish a Foundation from which a Fair & Equitable Family Business Transition can be achieved!

For a free consultation call Adrian Spitters at (604) 855-6846 or email him at 

For more succession strategies, check out my book Ready to Sell Your Business? – or Transfer it to the Next Generation This book examines what you need to do to prepare your business for a successful transfer to the next generation or sale to a third party.

Ready to Sell Your Business? is available as a free PDF download at

Alternatively, the book is available from as a paperback and Kindle version from this link:  Ready to Sell Your Business? – Amazon 

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To learn how a Corporate Wealth Advisor can help you build your Business Transition Team, please call me at (604) 855-6846 or email me at

Who’s investing your Money? is available as a free PDF download at 

Alternatively, the book is available from as a paperback and Kindle version from this link: Who’s Investing Your Money? – Amazon 

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