Succession Planning

It Worked for Us and Can Work for You

What Succession Planning Is… and Isn’t

Despite what the blockbuster TV show “Succession” portrays, succession planning isn’t solely about passing your company on to one of your heirs. Succession planning is a transition of ownership and stewardship of a business. It’s more complex — and not as nefarious or exciting — as the TV show would have you believe. Succession planning, also known as exit planning, is multi-faceted and, when done correctly, can yield significant, beneficial results.

Succession planning is a process. While it is not a transaction, succession planning typically leads to a business transition, such as a sale to a third party, management, or employees (ESOP); key executives taking over leadership roles; or younger members of a family continuing a legacy.

At PBO Advisory Group, we recently underwent our own leadership succession — a process that yielded valuable insights and lessons learned. Transitioning, exiting, and successions are all hot topics, and we’re happy to share a part of our succession story with you.

Getting Started

When Mike Ford founded PBO Advisory in 2011, building a successful company was, of course, his goal. About two years ago, Mike began seriously considering his exit. Given his vast business experience, Mike knew he needed to start planning immediately.  For any business owner feeling the pull of retirement or new opportunities, Mike suggests thinking through what you want your exit to look like:

  • Do you want to sell your business?
    • If yes, what are your financial expectations for selling your business and are you in a position to sell today?
    • If no, do you have any family members or employees well positioned, or in training to, run the company?
  • Would you consider an ESOP?
  • Do you want to fully retire or keep working?
  • Do you want to continue in a leadership role or take on a different role within your company?
  • What is your timeline?

PBO Advisory’s Francesca San Diego also suggests thinking over the financial, operational, and cultural perspective of your exit, such as:

  • What is the business’ value?
  • What terms and conditions of payment would be required, including tax and other considerations?
  • Are there estate considerations?
  • What are the company’s current and ongoing risks?
  • What aspects of the values and history of the company are critical to its ongoing success?
Keys to a Successful Transition

With a vision for an exit in place, there are three critical steps to take to ensure success:

  1. Planning: Start early, ideally at least two years out, if not more. This requires significant planning in the areas of finance, operations, and human capital.
  2. Involvement and Communications: All parties that will be involved in the succession event should know of the plan and be involved with its development. If changes are made to the plan while it is being implemented, which is typical, these must be communicated.
  3. Updating and Monitoring: At a minimum, your plan should be updated annually. On an ongoing basis, the plan should be monitored to ensure it is being implemented correctly. When any major business decisions are being considered, the plan should be consulted.
The PBO Path

After careful consideration, Mike envisioned what he wanted next for himself and PBO Advisory. With the senior leadership team identified and now involved, there were many discussions as to what path to take to get to Mike’s desired exit and our plan began to unfold.

For Mike, the best course was to retain majority ownership but position himself into a new role to concentrate on growing our business nationally.

Freeing Mike to focus on other things meant we needed a new CEO running the day-to-day operations. The obvious choice for Mike was Fran, who was the firm’s CFO and also owns a percentage of the firm.

According to Mike: “Fran checks all the boxes of a great leader and PBO’s next CEO. She understands business operations and finance. It was important to me to find someone who also complements my business skills. Fran’s extensive experience in working with other business owners with their succession and exit planning was the perfect partnership for our process.”

Working together, they took a slow, intentional approach. They set in place objectives they wanted to meet prior to the transition. With Fran moving into the CEO role, someone needed to take over as CFO.  Jennifer Rebis, who had worked with Mike in previous businesses and had also been with PBO Advisory for several years, was the natural choice, and Fran began transitioning her into the CFO role.  The final stage of developing our succession team will be creating the advisory board which will be influential in helping evaluate the future direction and ownership of the firm.

When building a plan, there are three internal aspects of your company to consider:

  • Financial
  • Operational
  • Human Capital

Upcoming articles of this Succession Planning series will explore each of these aspects in more detail, including a discussion of increasing your firm’s value, the intersection of culture and operations, and specific human capital and HR needs to incorporate into a plan.

For more information on succession planning, please reach out to Mike Ford or Francesca San Diego.

Mike Ford

President & Founder



Francesca San Diego
CEO & Member
(858) 935-4846