You’re a successful business owner and you’d like to plan ahead. Professionals are urging you to prepare a “succession plan” – but you look at it as a retirement plan. Getting out of the daily grind might be nice, but giving up your life’s work and your legacy business? Maybe not so nice. No matter how they sugar coat it, “succession planning” looks like you’re calling it quits.

Whether they call it a succession plan, an exit plan or a retirement plan, it usually amounts to a transaction where you cash in your chips and your legacy business goes away. And, as soon as you sign that transaction document, you may no longer have any input in the conduct of your own business.

Is there another way? Can you cash your chips, continue your legacy business and still have a hands-on role? Can you have your cake and eat it too? The answer for you very well may be “yes!”

An employee stock ownership plan (“ESOP”) may allow you to sell your business to your employees in a non-adversarial, tax-advantaged transaction and continue to manage operations by electing directors of your choosing. You can participate in the business as much or as little as you would like. Want to taper off over the next ten years or so? No problem!

In this way, ESOPs can treat the two major non-financial issues facing business owners “in transition”: the end of the business involvement of a lifetime, and the likely loss of the legacy business itself.

The Takeaway: If a business transition is in your future, make sure an ESOP purchase is on your short list.