Business Succession Planning Checklist: The 4 Basics You Should Know

Business Succession Planning Checklist

Your business is important to you.

It is your story- your legacy-  the living creation you built with your time, commitment, and passion. You will pass it on to those ready to carry on the provision of your enterprise. 

In all the time and focus a business can demand, sometimes looking beyond the moment in front of you doesn’t feel like the immediate next step. It’s more a moment seemingly so far from “right now,” that it’s more to the end of the growing to-do lists than it is that next step. When checking to see what is to be done next, balancing and preparing for something seemingly so far in the future can fall from the top of the priorities list. 

Having a business succession planning checklist is as important as your daily to-do lists. 

If your daily’s, weekly’s, even monthly’s are put into place to set you and your business up for success, you have the mindset to put into place the infrastructure needed to attain the gains you have worked so hard for. This is the same mindset that is keen to understand the need for the infrastructure set on achievement as it goes beyond your individual time with your own business. Its that same mindset that, when aware of the utility of business succession planning, will identify the benefit of a simple business succession planning checklist. 

This mindset is your mindset. It is the mindset that got you where you are in your business, and it’s the mindset that will move the continued abundance of your business through the years and generations to come. 

☑️ Know What a Business Succession Plan is

Of course, to start moving through your business succession planning checklist, you want to know exactly what it is you are working with- what it can do and how it is beneficial to your business? 

What is a Business Succession Plan?

A business succession plan is what it sounds like- it is the plan curated and put into place that maps out the succession of the business when the time comes, applicable to small businesses, through to larger businesses. 

In a bit simpler of terms, it’s a strategy developed to guide the hand-off of leadership within the business to other identified employees to ensure its continued, smooth operation. This happens in a variety of scenarios: retirement, graduated movement onwards in the industry, or, in a more critical occurrence, death. 

When any of the crucial leadership roles becomes absent, the already established business succession plan enables a smooth transition. 

It is a plan to ensure that the money-making machine continues generating profit and good will, even if one of the key players is unable to work due to disability and/or death. 

☑️ Know the Elements of a Business Succession Plan

There are a few key elements to know about. Lucky for you, you’re right here, moving through a business succession plan checklist that will help you become aware of some of those major pieces. 

The Elements:
A Long Term Lens

When will the plan you are building be put into place? Will it be structured for when the current leaders vacate their positions in a well-timed, expected transfer of power? 

Of course! This is the inevitable scenario that drives the initial consideration of what comes next. In looking at the succession plan of handing off the business at this anticipated time, a long form of preparation presents itself.  

It’s in this framework you can look through your employee roster to identify the employees that are committed to the company’s ethos, and exhibit a record and aptitude of fulfilling their own potential within the structure of the business itself. 

Short Term Emergency Lens 

Not always is every change planned out, prepped for, and awaited. Sometimes, there are the unexpected moments, coming at unexpected times, that could send expected waves through the business. 

A short term emergency lens is a needed element in your planning- hence why it ended up on your business succession planning checklist. This is a modified approach to the long term lens. Through the long term lens, the body of the business is seen for all the individual potentials, and what they could be with the proper planning, preparation, training and structure. 

Through the short term emergency lens, the individuals who already hold the capacities for transferable power are identified. These are the ones that can step into a role in the case of an unexpected emergency resulting in a temporary or permanent crucial position vacancy. 

Though not ideal, this lens, and the annex it provides the business succession plan, expresses its undeniable benefit in the moment it is needed. 

Its included in this business succession planning checklist for a reason, and should be included in the plan as well.

Recruitment & Training 

Some of the most important gears in the machine of your business are your employees; these are just as fundamental gears that keep the business rolling through the business succession plan put in place. 

Through either lens, and within either of the accompanying plans put into place, the well-prepared employee to take the reigns of smooth continuation is critical. The employees can be identified quickly, but how prepared are they? What training can they receive that would make their responsibility in these moments that much easier? What training would help move the business through the proper hands in a successful manner? 

Identify the training needed and add those into your appropriate plans. Obviously, through the long term lens planning that is preparing for a coming retirement in the future, there is more time for training. 

Something to note: these structures are flexible in a way that can look to the future when employees are on the rise. This means advancement and promotion reaches through to all levels of the business not just those already sitting in executive roles. Training provided helps those employees on the rise, rise even higher.  

As you’ll learn from this business succession planning checklist, some of the benefits of the plan itself are found in the impact of the ‘succession’ aspect as it drives engagement with the employees themselves.

  • Employees that can rise, collaborate and help the business evolve
  • – Subconscious business actions are adjusted to the focus and awareness of the potential growth/evolutions
  • – This cultivates a new generation of leaders that continue with the original leadership values. This is the continuation of the business’ legacy

If the roster is lacking, though, or if your business is just now expanding into the realm of hiring, you can use recruitment to invite in and hire those employees that come with the training and preparation already needed- or, at least, have already begun. 

Needed Time: Planning, Adjustments & Updates 

A common theme throughout the entirety of this business success planning checklist is time.

The long term and the short term scenarios.

How they affect the potential for training and recruitment.

The awareness of needing a plan in place no matter where in the timeline you are in your business. 

Time is a finite resource you may use, though there is always ways to work with it rather than against it. 

Allow time to make a plan that feels genuinely fitting, not just for the moment but for the future of the business and those in its structure. 

Implement a timeline of check-ins to make appropriate adjustments. Your business will continue to grow and evolve. Your business succession plan should as well. 

Formally update your plan. Ensure adjustments and updates are clear and documented. To put the time into building the pathway your business will take and to not revise the map when the path changes accordingly will dishonor the efforts made. 

You are committing the time to move through this business succession planning checklist, so give the same commitment to the plan you put into place.

☑️ Know How the Business Succession Plan will Work through the System 

You move through your business succession planning checklist. You build your plan. You know who will do what, and when. The individuals have their training set before them. How does it look on paper though? What supporting measures can be pursued to ensure the plan will flow as its set? 

Resource Protection through Life Insurance 

In short, life insurance policies are used to ensure the transfer of business and resources to the surviving or continuing partners. This process, often called a “cross purchase agreement,” a “buy-sell agreement,” or a “stock transfer agreement” ensures that if and when one of them passes away while still working, the other partner has non-taxable cash to pay the estate of the deceased partner almost immediately, then owns the entire firm.

This makes it so the partner is transferred the company as to not have to pay out of pocket for their partner’s share. 

☑️ Know Who to Call when You Have Questions 

At this point going through the business succession planning checklist, you might be wondering- is it appropriate for my company?

Just as all businesses are unique, so is the answer to that question. In short: it depends! 

Some companies have an easily-transferrable value proposition, some companies could easily function with a relatively simple promotion of a key employee, some companies would immediately have zero value without that individual, and some companies have multiple owners with unique, individual, and tailor-set functioning skill sets or positions. 

So then, how would you learn more? Who would you call?


At Ashland Insurance, we have a specialist that helps determine these facts, and many more due to having 25 years of experience in this space.

Call or e-mail to set up an appointment to find out how to mitigate this risk for your small business. 


There’s a lot on the line if there isn’t a plan put in place. Do it now rather than later. This is one of the “do it before you need it” things for your business. 

  Your business is important to you, and it’s important to us too.


 541.482.0831 Ashland

541.857.0679 Medford