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What’s next? Who’s next?

NEW YORK (AP) — Jessica Sayles is thinking about who might take over for her when she retires at age 55 from the accounting firm where she is managing partner — even though that’s still 21 years away.

“I feel that a good portion of my job is to find my successor,” says Sayles, who hopes to teach a younger associate to manage Las Vegas-based Houldsworth, Russo & Co.

Succession planning should be a priority for small business owners, since a company’s survival can depend on it. That can include choosing someone to take over a business when the owner retires, and it can help prepare a company to be sold.

But it’s often on the back burner. Sixty percent of owners in a survey released by insurer Nationwide said they didn’t have a succession plan, and of those owners, nearly half said they didn’t think it was necessary. The survey, which questioned 502 owners and was released in February, found that owners in their 20s and 30s were more likely to have a succession plan than those who were baby boomers or in their 40s.

Such planning can take time that owners may feel can be better used, and it means dealing with the possibility of being incapacitated or dying.

“It’s tough from a mental and emotional standpoint because you’re faced with realties you don’t want to think about,” says Courtney Ellett, who owns Obsidian Public Relations in Memphis, Tennessee. She has been working on plans for what she calls “the long-term life of my company.”.....

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