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Don’t Wait To Benefit From Your Succession Plan

27 July 2009 No Comment

So you finally got over the emotional hurdles and are now really ready to do a succession plan. Almost by definition this is a once-in-a-lifetime event and, as such, you have no experience doing one. There are a few things to keep in mind as you’re creating your succession plan that will help ensure that it is effective and productive.

First, a succession plan is a natural extension of good business principles. If you look past the family and emotional issues, this is exactly what you would do to manage and grow your business. As a practice, every manager should be continually cultivating the next level of employees who can assume greater responsibility. This way, the manager can attend to higher value issues and everyone can continue to advance their careers.

Next, a good succession plan provides value to the company and management now. Too many business owners make the mistake of thinking that succession planning is some extra work on top of what they’re already doing and won’t be utilized until some indeterminate time in the future. Knowing that your succession plan is aligned with your corporate strategic goals makes it easier to envision and more profitable to implement.

Finally, a well executed succession plan speaks volumes about the company and management to the employees, stakeholders, and even the marketplace. It enhances the culture and longevity of the business and highlights the stability, management depth, and discipline. It’s one of those signals that brings a level of comfort to anyone who would be impacted by not having (or having a bad) succession plan.

A good plan is active, in some ways, immediately. A hands-on, long-term approach begun well before a transition is forced by circumstances, is of immense value to the whole business, not just the two generations. The key is to engage the successor at the leadership level with a project that will build value in the business.

  • Use high impact projects so that the successor really has to step up and also so the business reaps the benefit. This allows the CEO and Board to do a valid assessment of the successor under ‘live fire’ conditions.
  • Create many opportunities that require the successor to not just meet other staff, rather to work closely with them. Leadership cannot merely be conferred, it must be earned.
  • Let the staff know what the process is and how success is being measured. Getting their input throughout the process is extremely helpful during this process as well as for general business improvement.
  • There is no perfect time to begin so just get started. Everyone will learn valuable, unanticipated lessons while working through the process.

Don’t think of a succession plan as it relates to death or retirement, think about management development and business growth. Properly implemented, the business can begin reaping the benefits of the succession plan right away and, in time, the actual succession will be completed with nary a hitch.

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