Businessman calculating and checking articles of agreemen

Although the majority of Canada’s entrepreneurs are reaching retirement age, few have concrete succession plans and many plan to keep working for many years to come, according to survey results published Monday from IPC Private Wealth, part of Mississauga, Ont.-based Investment Planning Counsel Inc. (IPC).

According to an estimate from the Business Development Bank of Canada, nearly 60% of Canada’s small and medium-sized business owners are 50 or older.

IPC Private Wealth’s poll finds that 42% of Canadian small business owners are unsure about their plans for retirement, while more than a third (36%) don’t plan to give up ownership until they are not well enough to manage it.

Twenty-one per cent of small business owners say they aren’t sure if they have enough money to retire or if their business will attract potential buyers.

“Succession planning for small business owners is a fundamental challenge,” Sam Febbraro, executive vice president, IPC, says in a statement. “There is no cookie-cutter approach to developing a business succession plan; but for any small business owner, it is important to plan things early on and not in a hurry or at the last minute when emotions are high.”

A particular concern among high net-worth (HNW) entrepreneurs is whether their heirs would be interested in taking over their businesses; 34% of HNW entrepreneurs express concern that their heirs are uninterested, compared with 28% of business owners overall.

“Small business owners need to have a conversation with their heirs early on to determine whether they share the same passion for the business and if they have the skill set or are willing to be trained to take over the business,” says Paul Wylie, senior vice president of business development at IPC Private Wealth. “We suggest using a coach, someone removed from the family, to facilitate these conversations and stand as a family advisor, not just as a financial advisor.”

The survey also finds that, despite the uncertainty, 48% of respondents had no plans to seek the help of a financial advisor with succession planning for their businesses.

For the survey, Environics Research Group interviewed 300 respondents using an online methodology from July 24 to Aug. 2. To qualify, respondents had to be 18 years or older, self-employed full time, and small business owners with up to 50 employees.