Case Studies

Business Succession Gone Wrong

Sadly, this is a true story.

A well-respected accountant from Geraldton Western Australia, and a long-time client are both dead after a sequence of events which seems to have stemmed from a family dispute between 3 brothers over their father’s will.

The accountant, Philip Chamberlain, was shot dead in March 2018 by client and grain farmer Rodney Vlahov. Rodney and his brothers were in a meeting at Philip’s office to discuss a succession plan for the family farm. The farm had been established in the 1930s, but the business had struggled since the death of Rodney’s Father Tom Vlahov in 2017.

Handling of Tom Vlahov’s will had strained family ties, and the meeting to discuss farm succession became heated. Rodney stormed out of the meeting and returned with a gun. It’s not clear whether Rodney had intended to shoot Philip or whether his intention was to shoot his brothers and Philip was killed trying to calm him down.

Following the shooting, Rodney returned to the family farm where he took his own life.

And so 2 families, and a tightknit community, were left devastated by a succession plan gone wrong. One wonders what might have been if Tom had dealt with the family succession plan and his will, during his lifetime.

Business Succession Done Right 

An accountant was having trouble convincing one of his 65-year-old clients that he needed to start planning his business succession. It wasn’t until the accountant referred his client to a Transition Planning Consultant (TPC) that things changed for everyone involved. 

The client undertook both Transition Planning Australia’s (TPA) LIVE with Purpose and the DECIDE Programs with the TPC. 

By doing the LIVE with Purpose Program, his Future Life became clear and an exciting prospect. He left feeling ready to transition his business. 

He was then guided through the DECIDE Program becoming completely committed to the business succession process, and, with the accountant’s assistance, was able to sell the business successfully. 

The accountant’s fees for advising his client on the business succession process were $48,000 over and above usual compliance fees. 

Because of the accountant’s foresight in referring his client to the TPA Programs, this client was able to sell and exit his business in the most personally and financially satisfying way and move onto creating a fulfilling life in retirement. A time of life he’d previously feared would be a slippery slope to boredom. 

A successful outcome all round!

Glenn Eases Out of a Successful Business

Glenn and his wife Robyn are easing out of their electrical contracting business over time, working to maximise its value, ensure a smooth operational handover, while also focusing on their personal transition into retirement.

What’s the best way to leave a successful business? That’s the challenge facing Glenn, 62 and his wife Robyn, who run an electrical contracting business for medium-sized commercial developments. Years of hard work have resulted in a business that delivers high margins, combined with low overheads and efficient work teams.

Working with a Transition Planning Consultant, the first step for Glenn and Robyn was to develop a personal transition plan to decide what to do after full-time work. This allowed them to take this to their financial advisor to work out how much would be needed to fund their retirement. Then, their business transition plan covers issues such as the worth of the business, the value of goodwill, and the potential to increase the value of the business with new systems and processes.

Glenn and Robyn are exploring two main strategies:

Their two electricians, Sam and Bridget, taking over the business. While this is attractive, Sam and Bridget have limited funds available, so Glenn and Robyn are working with their Transition Planning Consultant and a team of advisors to devise a solution that would see them realise a fair value for the business in a way that Sam and Bridget can afford. They will most likely transfer shares in the business over time. This complements an operational transition strategy for Glenn to train Sam and Bridget on key operational aspects of the business such as design and client liaison during the transition period.
Creating a charitable trust using some of the proceeds from the business. This would enable Glenn and Robyn to work with their children to help those less fortunate than themselves.

Margaret Learns to Say No and Create a New Identity

Margaret tackles the consequences over-committing and learns how to create a new self-identity outside of work.

If there’s one word that Margaret, 58, hasn’t used much, it’s ‘no’. She’s something of an over-achiever with a successful business career, a high profile, an outstanding reputation in the NSW business community, and involvement in many industry and community groups.

But she’s over-extended, and it’s taking a toll on her mental and physical health. Even with deteriorating health and the added burden of depression, she is reluctant to cut back on commitments, admitting that her identity is very much tied to them.

But now that she’s recognised the problem, she’s tackling it head on by completing Transition Planning Australia’s LIVE two-day workshop to expand her thinking about what she can do in retirement.

“If only I’d known about transition planning five years ago,” she said.

Jonathan Lets Go of the Family Business

Jonathan takes a strategic approach to hand his family business to his son and fully prepare for retirement.

When you’re a self-confessed workaholic and you’ve built up a successful family business, letting go can be a challenge. That’s the situation faced by Jonathan, 65 who’s the managing director of his family business, while son Matthew is general manager.

Jonathan and his wife Anne have recognised that the process won’t be easy, so have called in the help of advisers, including a Transition Planning Consultant, to develop strategies for personal transition, business succession, family succession, and their inheritance strategy.

Their personal transition plan plays a key role in moving away from full-time work and creating a purposeful and fulfilling life. The plan will help Jonathan to mentally prepare to let go of his business and successfully hand over the reins to Matthew.

Jonathan and Anne plan to stop full-time work in the next couple of years, and gradually ease out of the business. During that time, Matthew will take over more responsibility for managing the business, while Jonathan concentrates on business development.

The family meets on a regular basis to monitor progress for their business succession strategy, while Jonathan and Anne continue to work on their family’s succession and inheritance strategies.

Bill Finds an Alternative to International Executive Life

Bill is a globe-trotting senior executive who wants to scale back rather than give up work.

After a highly successful career as a mining executive, there is one word that summed up Bill’s thoughts about retirement: dread. At 55, after working his way up through the ranks of mining companies around the world, he’d lived in 10 different cities and was a senior executive at an international mining company in Melbourne.

But he wasn’t ready to hang up his steel-capped boots yet: surely there was an alternative to traditional retirement that would allow a taste of the work he loved, while giving something back to the next generation, and gradually transitioning into retirement?

By working with TPA to develop a personal transition plan with his partner Helen, Bill has realised there are many opportunities to create a fulfilling life after full-time work.

On the work front, he’s discovered plenty of demand for senior mining executives to work with junior mining companies in advisory or non-executive director roles. This will allow him to earn some income, while enjoying sharing his extensive mining and business experience with the next generation of mining entrepreneurs.

Susan Takes Time to Develop Interests Outside Work

Susan reflects on what goals and interests she can pursue when 60-80 hour work weeks come to a close.

When you’re a successful medical specialist working 60-80 hour weeks, there simply isn’t time or energy to develop other interests or pursuits. Like many others, this left Susan, 63, feeling apprehensive about retirement. What would replace an outstanding reputation, high profile, and the buzz of speaking at medical conferences around the world?

That’s what brought Susan to TPA, and she’s developing a personal transition plan to find out. The plan will help her explore new challenges for retirement, such as volunteering in an overseas hospital to give back to the community. She’s creating strategies to ease out of full-time work, freeing up time to achieve new goals over the next 20 to 30 years.


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