Succession Planning High Level View: 2021

GJM Sucession Planning M&A activity covid pandemic“It’s never been a better time to be an owner of a business.”

That strong statement was made by Rob Quandt, Managing Director at Windjammer Capital during a GJM webinar examining the current increased activity in mergers and acquisitions, and the importance of having a succession plan. The webinar, Succession Planning High-Level View: 2021 on March 23 brought together a panel of experts to dive into the very active M&A market. The panel, moderated by GJM Transaction Advisory Partner Greg Taylor, also shared some thoughts on what it takes to have a successful succession plan for your business.

Strong M&A Market

Quandt’s statement speaks to the current climate coming out of the economic shutdown during the pandemic. The panelists agree that many businesses looking at potential sales, mergers and acquisitions before the pandemic put those plans on hold and now they’re feeling more confident moving forward. As a result, they say, there’s an explosion of M&A activity, particularly in the middle market.

Greg Taylor GJMTaylor notes that these aren’t distressed businesses either. In fact, he says, some are healthier than they’ve been in many years.

“The companies are very strong financially,” he says. “They have very strong balance sheets. That’s also the same situation for potential buyers.”

Panelist Tom Zucker, President & Founder of EdgePoint Capital agrees, describing the M&A marketplace as “incredibly hot”. He says not only are many owners interested in selling their businesses, but they’re getting premium valuations.

Why? Here are Zucker’s thoughts:

  • There’s an abundance of capital chasing too few of potential deals
  • Tax and regulatory has some scared
  • The so-called “9/11 effect”

“Similar to the time period post 9/11, today business owners are choosing to reprioritize non-business activities ahead of corporate growth and profits. We have monikered these emotionally based decisions the “9/11 effect”. This re-examination of priorities has prompted many business owners to consider selling their business,” he says.

The “911 effect” reference Zucker makes is to the COVID-19 pandemic that, like the September 11th attacks, has some people reexamining their priorities and making major life decisions, emotional decisions, like retiring or selling their businesses.

Regarding tax impact, GJM Tax Partner Charlie Heid says there’s no question that concerns about federal tax policy are driving decisions as well. Many are concerned about potential increases in capital gains tax that could hurt them on a sale further down the road.

“Tax rates that we see today are the lowest they’ve ever been, and they’re going to go up. The question is when, how, and by how much,” says Heid.

Are You Ready to Sell?

If someone walked in the door tomorrow and wanted to talk to you about buying your business, would you be ready? And what can you do so you will be ready?

Zucker says ask yourself these questions: What would you want out of a sale: to carry on your legacy? Get the highest price? Or maybe preserve and protect the corporate structure within your family? He says you need to know what you want from a sale, be very clear about that, and communicate it well.

“The hard work is really sitting down with your advisors and your family and being very clear what you want to get accomplished… and finding a good investment banker, a good attorney, a good accountant is absolutely critical in the journey.”

Quandt echoes that, saying you need to assemble the right team of experts, and be very clear about your goals.

“There’s not really a right or wrong answer for any business,” he says. “If you’re looking to stay involved in the business, great. If you want to retire, great. But if you’re upfront about it, you and your advisors can figure out which firm is going to be the right fit for what you’re trying to accomplish.”

Panelist Ian Bund, a Senior Advisor with Plymouth Growth, says their team looks for businesses at are in the growth stage and are looking for future needs and resources.

“We’re really in the business of partnering with entrepreneurs who have a growth thesis for their business and helping execute that growth thesis towards an exit, so if you’re interested in an exit in the next 6 to 12 months, it would be unlikely that we would be of much use to you, but if you had a longer horizon, and wanted to explore the possibility of your business being self-standing for a period of time, there may be a fit with what we do,” says Bund.

Timeframe for a Sale?  

Tom Zucker says the amount of time you think you need to prepare for sale, versus the length of time you actually need may be two different things. During the panel discussion he referenced an EdgePoint white paper surveying 200 privately-held busines owners who had sold. Early on, he says, those business owners thought less than a year would be enough time. Further into the process, Zucker noted, more and more business owners said a 1-3 year timeframe seemed a more reasonable expectation.

Words of Wisdom


Tom Zucker EdgePointTom Zucker, EdgePoint:

“Never sell a business by yourself because there are very skilled buyers out there who will see the opportunity that might not be present to you as a business owner.”



Rob Quandt Windjammer GJM Succession PlanningRob Quandt, Windjammer:

“It’s hard to underestimate the amount of data and questions you’re going to go through… you’re going to have two jobs for six months. You’re going to have your day job running the company to achieve the premium valuation, and you’re also going to be talking to multiple buyers who are going to have a lot of questions about your business.”


Ian Bund Plymouth Growth GJM succession planningIan Bund, Plymouth Growth:

“It’s the relationships that we make, where we’re supporting the growth cycle of a business and getting that business prepared so that ultimately it can optimize the exit value.”



Charlie Heid GJM succession planning webinarCharlie Heid, GJM:

“Make sure you are in regular discussions with your advisors, your trusted inner circle.”



If you do decide now’s the right time to sell or to buy your business, and you’re clear on exactly what you want, turn to your trusted advisors for an open and honest conversation. To learn more about GJM's transaction advisory expertise or to connect with one of our experts, simply contact GJM to begin the conversation.

Established in 1996, Gilmore Jasion Mahler, LTD (GJM) is the largest public accounting firm in Northwest Ohio, with offices in Maumee and Findlay. Locally owned, GJM offers cloud-based accounting and provides comprehensive services including assurance, business advisory, tax, risk advisory, healthcare management and outsourced accounting. The firm’s professionals specialize in industries including construction & real estate, healthcare, manufacturing & distribution and utilities

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