Image of Helen Rogers smiling

Why succession planning is so important for businesses

Written by Sally-Anne Rogers

In conversation with: Managing Director, Helen Rogers

Helen started her business in 2011, with the aim of supporting local companies needing a helping hand with their bookkeeping. Establishing herself within the Knutsford community, Helen rapidly metamorphosised from sole trader to limited company. She now employs 12 people and has become a valued service and collaborator to copious organisations, near and far.

However, a key factor when you create a thriving business is what happens when you retire or semi-retire? This is a recurring topic for anyone wanting to understand what needs to be put in place for business succession planning. Although Helen has quite a few years to go, here she explains the various options open to her when the time comes.

Helen with some of her work colleagues

Why did you decide to start your business?

I really wanted to raise the profile of professional administration as the core strength of any business. Admin can be much maligned and undervalued, often seen as ‘just background support’ to the experts. So, wanting to represent those who take a real pride in supporting business needs, I felt this was not to be taken lying down. There are a multitude of roles classified as admin; as bookkeeping was my area of expertise, it became the heart of the new business. 

What is the focus of your business now?

Initially, it was purely remote bookkeeping and secretarial services. In later years, as the business grew, the management accountancy and bookkeeping side of the business became the focus as we discovered there was a real dearth of companies specialising purely in this and not in end of year tax, a service we decided we would not offer.

What options are you considering for your succession planning?

After much research, I find I have various options as to how I can exit the business. But first and foremost, I needed to protect the business and the staff for the ‘what happens if I fall ‘under a bus’ scenario. So, before I considered these options, I decided to take on another director ensuring that should anything happen to me, the business would be safeguarded for the future.

Image of Helen in walking gear looking over a lake at a mountain range.

So how might you exit the business?

Even though I’m only in my early 50s, I understand it’s imperative to begin my succession planning as this will maximise my options as to how and when I chose to take retirement. Luckily I have plenty of time, but my initial priority is to ensure my pension will be adequate to meet my future needs. Taking time away from work to raise my family means I have gaps, so must make this up beforehand.

Looking at options others have taken, I could begin by going part time, to ensure we find the perfect replacement; I could step down as managing director and take on the role of chairman, or work for the company on a consultancy basis. Other alternatives could be a management buyout, or merging the business with a similar one or complement another service.

What are the crucial elements to consider?

Naturally, cashflow and pension planning for me personally. This will give both me and my husband insight in to our future needs. 

In terms of the business, having up to date management accounting is key. Any planning for the business divisions can be made by a fusion of past data and forecasting the financial future of the company. Being able to utilise established, long-term data enables patterns to emerge. It’s important to do this regularly as having inside knowledge at our finger tips helps us to grow the business. It’s also crucial in ensuring we have the correct number and staff expertise in place to maintain the company’s health.

Image of Helen with her family in the garden at home.

How do you see your future when you eventually retire?

Oh! without doubt my husband and I would like to travel as much as possible. Opportunities for adventure have been many over the past thirty years and we’ve had loads of road trips around Europe, along with trains through Thailand and the US. We’d love to rent a house in Vietnam for six months to experience real life – maybe even house swapping!

Essentially this means I need to keep fit, so this will also play a great part in my free time. Unfortunately, I do have hereditary arthritis in every joint, so there will be plenty of walking! I’d also like to offer my time to help a charity.

My first grandchild is on the way and so I’d like to support my family in the way my parents were able to support me. I’m a real foodie as well so cookery classes are on the menu! I will probably wonder how I ever had time to work!

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