Statistics show that 70 percent of entrepreneur-owned businesses do not survive the founder. Did you work this hard, for this long, to see your life’s work implode?

One of the most important features about good marketing process is its impact when it comes time for the owner to move out. Whether you plan to sell out or pass the business on, having a system installed that generates leads and converts them to loyal, profitable clients will significantly improve your business’s value.

Your marketing system should include a clear statement of how you are different and better; a complete sales kit filled with persuasive reasons to do business with you; a lead-generation process that includes the internet, advertising, public relations and referrals; and a process that effectively and efficiently converts leads to loyal customers.

Succession planning is more than just marketing, however. Here are seven other areas you need to consider:

1. Retirement isn’t death. Small business owners don’t plan for succession because they genuinely hate the idea of not working—no control, no work, no identity—so only about one quarter have a plan. Not planning leaves your staff and their families incredibly vulnerable.

2. Retirement isn’t just deciding not to go into the office anymore. It’s ensuring you have enough money to retire on from the sale of your business. Will your business even carry on or will you sell it? Who’s going to manage the business? How will ownership be transferred?

3. The biggest business “killers” are taxes and family discord. So succession planning is about management, ownership and taxes. Will an owner manage the business or not? Will all owners have the same number of shares? How will you reorganize the company to reduce your taxes?

4. Outsource. If you’ve been successful, you already depend on a network of help to manage your financial, tax, and legal; maybe even marketing, distribution and HR issues. Small business owners are typically too emotionally involved to make good succession plans, so let someone else you trust do it for you.

5. Train and mentor your successor(s). Okay we know you hate this one—who has the time? But how can you expect your business to continue to thrive without you if you don’t train? And remember, you’ll be throwing away your life’s work if you don’t.

6. Start business succession planning early. Okay we know you hate this idea too. But five years in advance is good. Ten years in advance is better. Many business advisors tell budding entrepreneurs to build an exit strategy right into their business plan.

7. Read. You owe it to yourself, your family, your employees and your suppliers to know the issues that will affect them once you’ve left.

Elizabeth Walker and Ken BurginElizabeth Walker and Ken Burgin

Ken Burgin and Elizabeth Walker are the Marketing Masters, a full-service marketing and advertising partnership that helps build busy businesses.