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Seats are perfectly aligned row by row, all facing a front table set for just a few people. Buffalo Business First drops a canvas background dotted with their logo to set the scene behind the four panelists awaiting to come out. Each seat is dressed with a pen and pad of paper and other branded products for each attendee, all present to hear from select financial experts at the front of the room.
This was the scene for 2019 and the years leading up to it. But in 2020, things went a bit differently.
This room was replaced with complete vacancy as registered attendees set up their laptops to tune into the GoToWebinar link that featured three panelists on a Coronavirus-related topic — “Response & Recovery: Succession Planning in a Time of Recovery.”
The panel consisted of Jamie Batt, Partner at Rupp Basse Pfalzgraf Cunningham LLC, Eric Colca, Partner at Chiampou Travis Besaw & Kersher LLP (CTBK), and Shaun P Stimpson, Managing Director and Market Executive of Bank of America. These three panelists were joined by Moderator John Tebeau, Publisher at Buffalo Business First.
Tebeau kicks off the event with a general question to each panelist, “What does business succession planning mean to you?”, and he passes the reins to Colca for a response.
“…In simplest terms, it’s developing long-term goals and then a road map to achieve those goals.” He compares this process of planning to a literal road trip — choose an enjoyable destination and then find the best route to get there, one that makes most sense to you, as the planner. Later, Colca stresses that, “The planning process should never really stop.”
Batt expanded on this and stated it’s an “ever-evolving process,” depending on when a person starts succession planning: “For some it’s a marathon, for some it’s a sprint.”
When it comes to these uncertain times, there are best practices with how to handle succession planning and the scheduled timeline. Panelists agree that scheduling can ebb and flow and there may be some changes, but overall, the planning process should not be pushed off entirely, as this can contribute to losing sight of an end goal.
Stimpson attributes this question to the famous quote, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
Through these obstacles, there are a plethora of work-arounds available to business owners such as online networking, video conferencing, etc., all of which can contribute to introductory conversations. With the recent months being under a stay-at-home guideline, Stimpson said now is a better time than ever to have these talks around planning.
Tebeau directs additional questions to the line of panelists all around succession planning and the elements that go into the process of preparing to sell a business. No matter the end goal that a business owner has in sight, Colca says one piece holds high priority through and through: “This is a big event and can be emotional. I think it’s important to have your family as part of that process, as well… making sure they’re behind your decisions and involved in your decision-making.”
About 45 minutes into the forum, an audience member asked for the success rate of a business for a new owner. While no concrete number could be given, the panelists had some alternative insight.
Colca said the success of a business relies heavily on the planning put forth prior to opening its doors. A solid goal set in place with action steps leading up to it is what increases a businesses chance at success.
Batt looked at the question from the seller’s point of view and said the success of the sold businesses depends on the buyer — whether they have knowledge of the existing business being bought and if they have any prior experience in the industry or similar business models.
Knowing what a buyer is going to do with their bought company and what their goals are is what can be an Indicator of its success, Stimpson said.
To dig deeper into business succession planning and response and recovery in the Buffalo region during these pandemic times, watch the full Executive Forum here.