Conversations I have had with a number of business associations are that the topic of Succession Planning is very much a topical issue today. Unfortunately their concern for the well-being of their members is not necessarily one that is shared by the business owners themselves. I realized that this will have a huge impact on the future and how some essential business services may no longer exist once the door to a business closes as they have no successor in place.
A study done by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses in 2005 found that while 41% of the business owners surveyed claimed to be leaving their companies over a five year time period, only a third had done any succession planning. It was interesting that of those that claimed to have done succession planning none of them had anything written down. They were focused on dealing with today’s business challenges and will worry about what tomorrow brings when it arrives on their doorstep. While the study was done a number of years ago the landscape has not changed very much. The BMO Harris Private Banking survey has confirmed that in 2011. Just as startling is the fact that approximately two-thirds of the owners will retire over the next 10 years. Businesses without a succession plan in place with actual development of the successors will close their doors. There will be a loss of service to their clients and the end to a legacy that was once a vision of the owner. A vision that at one time would go on forever!
A large percentage of the surveys that are done speak to the fact that having the plan in place is one thing – acting on the plan is another. It has also been suggested that a lot of business owners view this exercise as replacement planning – purely identifying a warm live body to fill a role of greater responsibility without any forethought into the development of that person. Sadly and even worse, is whether or not the person being identified has the potential to be successful in a leadership and/or key role in the organization. We do not need to set someone up to fail in a leadership role. Succession planning and more importantly succession development is the key to any organization moving forward into the future and leaving that legacy that was one time part of a vision!
The solution going forward is to develop a solid succession plan that has provisions in it to develop the successor(s). You will definitely want to make sure you have a few options as the labor market is ever changing. You will need to make sure that you devote time and energy to the development of the successor(s) as the future of your company will be left in their hands. Quality leadership is still lacking globally today – let’s not contribute to those numbers.
Ensure that your succession planning process has mentoring built into it. It may well require two mentors – one to address the transfer of business knowledge and one to deal with the soft skills – personal growth of the successor. You may not have the cycles to do this all on your own – so reach out to external business partners that can help you with this and ensure your continued success and the longevity of your legacy! We can do this together – but we shouldn’t wait till the eleventh hour! Identification and development of potential successor(s) can take some time. Anything is possible as long as you embrace the “power of mentoring”!