Creating a Succession Plan for Small Businesses

Feb 1, 2019

Credit Catherine Cruz

One of the biggest challenges for a successful small business is knowing when and how to hand it over to new owners. PBN editor A. Kam Napier has more on how Hawaiʻi’s small businesses should approach succession planning.

According to Joe Burns, Oʻahu Director of the Hawaiʻi Small Business Development Center, as many as 60 percent of small business successions fail for lack of a plan. He says the first step in a plan to avoid such a fate is to understand the vision of the founders, so that their successors grasp the business' core values. The rest comes down to clear communications about the details.

Among the businesses PBN interviewed for this week's cover story is Bow Engineering. Founder Bill Bow started the conversation with his children about some day taking over the civil engineering business while they were both in high school. And it was a long conversation as both son, William, and daughter, Sarah, first went on to become high school science teachers. They only later joined the firm, Sarah as executive administrator and William as lead chemist.

When it came time to make a more formal succession plan, they were ready. They certainly understood the core values of the company. The biggest difference would be in how they would run it as a duo, in contrast to their father running it alone. Says William Bow, "Sarah and I make decisions on a consensus. Either we agree to move toward forward together or not at all."