The one big thing you probably haven’t done (but really need to)

People in front of business

What will happen to your business when you’re no longer around to run it? Here’s why it’s never too early to have a succession plan in place.

What will happen to your business when you’re no longer around to run it?

What will happen to it when you retire? What happens to it if you can suddenly no longer work? The Capricorn 2021 State of the Nation suggests not enough Members are considering these crucial questions.

Whilst 2021 saw an improvement of Members with a succession plan in place, a third of Members still have no succession plan in place and almost another 25% believe it’s too early to think about either retirement or transitioning ownership of the business to someone else.

Here’s what the study found. (Note: percentages are rounded)

Succession Planning

Total of all workshop owners

Workshop owners aged 18 – 34 years

Workshop owners aged 35 – 54 years

Workshop owners aged 55+ years

Have a succession plan in place





No succession plan





It’s too soon to think about transition and retirement





It’s never too early to plan for succession

Capricorn CEO of Automotive, Brad Gannon, said it’s understandable that many Members don’t have a succession plan in place, because the conversations involved — with family, business partners and employees — can be hard.

But it’s not just that the unexpected death of a business owner throws the workshop’s operation into chaos, it’s also about the efficient and productive running of the workshop today.

“Having those conversations, even if you’ve got no intention of moving on anytime soon, is a way of engaging your staff in the success of the business,” Mr Gannon said.

“Rather than just turning up and doing their job, employees think ‘I’m invested in coming in here, working hard, and making this business a success, because one day it could be mine.’

“I think more so than in many other industries it is important for workshop owners to address succession planning as soon as possible.

“Having a succession plan in place identifies what skills are required in a workshop for the owner to take a step back. You’re also empowering people and getting them to buy into the success of your business. Members can be far more successful by developing the right talent and keeping them engaged.”

Working on the business, not in the business

Encouraging staff to learn more about all aspects of the operation and giving them greater responsibility for the success of the business also make life easier for the workshop owner, Mr Gannon said.

“Without a long-term succession plan in place that identifies what knowledge and skills need to be developed and maintained within the business, too much will continue to fall back on the owner,” he said.

“This puts the business at risk of being overly reliant on a few key people who may move on or are totally reliant on the owner. And it also puts the owner at risk of burnout if they feel they can never get away from the business to spend time with their family or just take some time off to reflect on how they’re going, where they’re at, make some broader plans.”

Mr Gannon said having a succession plan in place means if you ultimately need someone to take over, or take a greater load, that option is available to you.

How do Members think they’ll “get out” of their businesses?

The 2021State of the Nation report also asked Members about their future plans for their business when they were ready to retire.

Here’s what they said. (Note: numbers are rounded)

Business after retirement



New Zealand

Put it up for sale




Transfer ownership




Haven’t thought about it/don’t know




Close it down








In a promising trend, significantly more Members in 2021 are considering putting their business up for sale or transferring ownership. Members reporting, they ‘hadn’t thought about it’ dropped 5 percentage points since 2020.

Mr Gannon said Members who have succession plans in place will also benefit from the goodwill they have accrued in the business.

“I think too many of our automotive businesses have developed so much value in goodwill in their business which without a succession plan will get lost,” he said.

“If you just close your doors, you don’t pass on all your customers to anyone else, so you don’t get the true reward of all the goodwill that you’ve developed.”

Is it time to think about a succession plan?

If you don’t have a succession plan in place, it’s time to start having those important conversations. Even if retirement is decades away, there are sound business reasons to have a plan in place.

This article was published 23/12/2021 and the content is current as at the date of publication.