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 45% of enterprises are transferred within the same family (family buy-out), 25% to someone outside the company (management buy-in) and 30% to employees who are not family members (management buy-out), according to the "Company Succession in Practice" report published in June 2016 by Credit Suisse.

Successions planned and completed
Source: Credit Suisse, Success Factors for Swiss SMEs, June 2013, Company Succession in Practice 2016 (next publication: no information available)

Succession according to business size

Of the 614,247 companies listed in the commercial register, 93,009 were looking for a successor in 2022, 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 17.10.2022

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