Safeguarding your future as a female business leader

Women standing on arrow
October 9, 2023

There are more female business leaders now than ever before in the UK. But women still face unique challenges in securing their legacies and futures here. Proactive planning is key for executives to safeguard their careers, and there are key steps women can take to protect their professional legacies.

With some forethought and expert counsel, female business leaders in the UK can enter their later years knowing their business interests are protected and their finances will support them for decades to come.

Consider succession plans

Many female leaders in the UK build companies from the ground up. But failing to develop a succession plan puts that professional legacy at risk. The first step is to identify an internal successor early on, so they can be trained appropriately. Be transparent with your team about the timeline for transition and the process for selecting your replacement. You may even consider selling to a strategic buyer who is committed to your company's mission and UK operations if there is no clear internal successor.

Another important move is to establish a clear transition plan to retain customers, suppliers and employees through the change in leadership. Talk to your board of directors about planning for your eventual succession or exit, and get input on reasonable timeframes.

Hiring an external advisor or coach can help objectively assess leadership potential within your firm and evaluate candidates for your replacement. Take time to document your vision for the company's future and strategic priorities to guide your successor.

You want to start handing over responsibilities and decision-making authority to the chosen replacement in stages, rather than all in one go. This gradual transfer of control can ease the transition. If appropriate, plan to remain personally involved as an advisor or mentor during the handover period to protect your business moving forward.

Get your financial house in order

As a successful female business leader, it is crucial to get your personal financial affairs in order as you plan for retirement and the transfer of wealth. Schedule meetings with your accountant and financial advisor to develop comprehensive tax, estate and asset management strategies.

For inheritance tax planning, consider setting up appropriate trusts and make full use of gift exemptions to potentially reduce future estate taxes. Review your pension schemes, life insurance policies and other retirement accounts to ensure proper beneficiaries are designated. Work with advisors to create a diversified investment portfolio of property, stocks, bonds and other assets that will generate the income you need to live comfortably in retirement.

Evaluate your company share structure and stock options to minimise tax liability when transferring shares to your desired beneficiaries. Your advisors can research schemes like AIM ISA allowances that offer tax benefits for shares in UK companies.

Stay on top of changing UK tax laws, pension rules and inheritance tax thresholds annually to take advantage of exemptions. Keeping meticulous financial records will also help your family handle your estate efficiently in the future. Taking strategic steps to organise your finances and control tax liability will provide peace of mind that your wealth and assets will work to care for your family long into the future.

Document critical data and knowledge

To ensure a smooth transition when you retire, it’s critical that you take steps now to document critical information about processes, procedures, relationships and intellectual property. This will ensure a smoother transition as you step away from the business and protects your knowledge for future generations.

Begin by creating standard operating procedures documents that outline your key business processes step-by-step, including manufacturing, customer service protocols, HR policies, accounting procedures, and more. Interview long-time employees to extract institutional knowledge on processes, customers, business relationships, shortcuts, and any other intel that will benefit future leaders.

Leaders should also ensure that organisational charts and job descriptions that indicate which roles are responsible for various processes and duties are kept up-to-date. Document critical customer data in your CRM system, such as points of contact, pricing, contracts, transaction history, communication preferences, pains, and gains.

Keep patents, trademarks, copyrights and other IP well documented and organised so ownership can be clearly transferred to new leaders. Archive past financial statements, contracts, legal documents, insurance policies, and other important information so it can be accessed later.

Standardise file naming and organisation on shared drives so information is easy to locate by new staff if you’re not around. Collect login credentials and passwords for critical systems and accounts and store them securely. Documenting processes, knowledge, and data in this manner will facilitate a much smoother leadership transition.

Plan your next chapter

Retirement may last 30 years or more for today's business leaders. So, take time to envision how you want to spend your time and resources. Will you join corporate boards, pursue passion projects, spend more time with family, travel the world or do some of each? Mapping out your priorities will help shape this next chapter.

Schedule regular meetups with close family members and friends. Nurture the relationships that matter most. Remain socially engaged by joining clubs or volunteer organisations where you can meet new people.

You might also consider how you may want to use your skills and experience to give back, such as mentoring young entrepreneurs or serving on non-profit boards. Mentorships are sorely lacking in business for women, and being in a position to help leaders of the future is a great use of your time as a female business owner. Finding outlets to continue using your expertise can provide a sense of purpose and ensures your experience and knowledge is passed on.

No one can fully predict the future. But putting plans in place for your health, finances and legacy will help ensure you're able to embrace this next exciting chapter of life secure in the knowledge that your affairs are in order.

Today's female business leaders have worked hard to achieve remarkable professional success. But it's equally important to dedicate time safeguarding your legacy and planning thoughtfully for the future. By being proactive about succession planning and getting expert financial and tax advice, you can enter your later years with peace of mind.


Our guest writer is Dakota Murphey, a Brighton based independent writer with over 15 years’ experience creating articles and winning content for a number of authoritative sites. She specialises in business, marketing and HR.

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