Figures on SMEs: Types of succession

The vast majority of business successions are made within a family. It is still often difficult to find a purchaser.

Succession still often poses a problem in small and medium-sized enterprises in Switzerland: approximately one SME in three disappears because it does not find a purchaser, according to the study "KMU Nachfolge - Quo Vadis?" by the KMU Next foundation. However, it constitutes an interesting alternative to the creation of a structure from zero: the survival rate after five years is 95% for transferred companies versus only 50% for new enterprises.

Almost 42% of SMEs are passed on to a direct descendant, 11% to someone with another familial connection, and 23% to employees or partners within the management who are not family members, according to the "Company Succession in Practice 2022" report published in September 2023 by Credit Suisse.

Relationship between the successor and the predecessor
Daughter/Son 42%
Other family relation 11%
Employee/Partner within the management 23%
Business relationship (e.g., supplier, client, competitor) 3%
None of these options 21%
Source: Business Succession Survey 2022 by Credit Suisse

Succession according to business size

Close to 94,854 companies were looking for a successor in 2023, according to a study by the data collection company Dun & Bradstreet. Succession issues affect about 15% of Swiss companies of between 1 and 49 employees. By contrast, the same concern only affects 7.9% of companies of 50 to 249 employees.

It is not always easy to find a buyer. In particular, students from a family that owns a company are only slightly interested in a takeover. Nevertheless, their interest increases a few years after the end of their studies, based on a study by the University of Saint-Gall.

Choice of career by graduates from a family that owns a company


At end of studies

Five years later

Heirs of the family business



Employees in another company or in public service



Founders of a new company






Coming Home or Breaking Free?, Ernst & Young and University of Saint-Gall, 2015 (next publication: no information available)


Last modification 21.12.2023

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