Being your own boss is a dream for many Americans. However, running a small business is more than just the stuff of dreams. It is also a lot of hard work. For many small business owners, their business becomes a part of who they are, and it is part they are not eager to give up.

According to the Chicago Sun Times, 58 percent of small business owners have no plans for who will take over their business after they pass away. There are several reason small business owners say they lack succession plans. One is that they are having too much fun managing their company to think about handing it off. Another reason was they are too busy to create plans, or that their need for succession is too far off.

However, Small Business Trends states 51 percent of small business owners are 50-88 years old. Over half of small business owners are nearing retirement age or have already passed it. It would seem for many small business owners, the time for planning is now. Before you start to panic, here are some tips that may make the process easier.

Create a description outlining the ideal candidate

The most important step of succession planning is selecting the right candidate to lead the company after you are not around. Creating a document that outlines the skills and experience you are looking for will be helpful. You should go beyond degrees and prior jobs. Think about the specific skills you have that make you successful in your role.

Review internal candidates

Most likely, there will be someone in your company that may be a good fit to replace you. It does not necessarily have to be your second-in-command. Maybe he or she is a great employee, but not a great manager. Be honest about these assessments. Perhaps a more junior member could be trained to be a better replacement.

A successor needs time to learn about your job

After you have picked a successor, do not just draw up the proper documents and make an announcement. You will want to start training your successor about his or her job role. If your company has a particularly small staff, training could be shadowing you as you work and then having your successor try to complete your tasks. It may also mean working with several mentors to learn more about the business.

Just make sure you provide feedback and allow him or her to make mistakes. Let your successor know you do not expect him or her to get everything right on the first try. It is all a part of the learning process.

Remember training a successor does not mean you must retire now. It just means you are creating a plan to protect you and your business for the future.