Succession Stories: Lessons from Successful Business Handovers

July 6, 2024

You may be considering leaving your business and handing it over to a new owner, or taking on a less involved role in the business. Either way, you’ll need to take care of the handover.

Business handovers may include both subjective and objective information. You might advise on who to go for help and the strengths and weaknesses of fellow employees, while also sharing more concrete information such as job roles and client history. You’ll have to communicate the handover to employees and supply contact details to your replacement.

As you’ll have experienced while developing your business, doing everything on your own can be difficult. There’s a lot to think of during a handover, and outside expertise from specialist handover consultants and corporate solicitors can help maximise profit and ease the transition.

Aside from what may be thought of as the essential ‘checklist’ of tasks to be completed, there are many other things to consider during a business handover.

Fortunately, there are some success stories we can learn from. Here are three lessons to be learned from successful businesses. 

Consider Who You’re Selling To

If you’re selling a business, rather than stepping into a new role, take the time to consider who will own your business. Clara Llamas, who successfully sold her food importer and e-retailer, advises that this issue “is of critical importance” if you “love your business and want it to thrive going forward.”

You may have spent many years developing your company, and so will likely want to see it in the right hands. By choosing suitable buyers, you’re doing what you can to ensure the future success of your business once you step away.

Recognise Others’ Strengths

Shigeru Miyamoto has been a key part of Nintendo since 1977. After such a long time with the company, contributing to their huge successes spanning generations of gamers, it may have been difficult to step back.

However, Miyamoto recognises the talent in Nintendo’s younger employees, having said, “we have developers that are young and brilliant.” At 71, Miyamoto still has an active role, but considers the “generational handover to be progressing smoothly.”

Recognising the strengths of others helps ensure a successful transition.

Have a Succession Plan

There is also a lesson to be learned from a less successful handover. Starbucks, now the world’s largest coffeehouse chain, was previously a coffee bean store. When Howard Schultz took over the company in 1986, he decided Starbucks should become a coffee shop and transformed the company.

At the start of the next century, Schultz himself handed over the company. In an interview with Harvard Business Review, Schultz regretted not putting in place an adequate succession plan. Following Schultz’ handover, Starbucks struggled with the financial crisis, greater competition, and negative press. As the interviewer put it, “when [Schultz] handed over the reins, there was trouble.” Schultz said, “I am very aware of my duty and responsibility to get succession planning right the next time around.”


By using what others have learned in their careers, you can ensure your handover is as smooth and successful as possible.