How to Keep My Business From Failing After I Retire

You’re considering retirement but worried that what you’ve built will collapse when you’re gone. What can you do? 

Two things you know for sure. You’re not the first person to let this keep you awake at night. And, there are millions of examples of leaders who seemed irreplaceable, and yet their organizations continued on without them. Think Henry Ford, George Washington, Mary Kay Ash, Michael Jordan. The list is endless. There’s a poignant old adage, attributed to different people over time,  that goes … “the cemetery is filled with irreplaceable people.” 

You can’t control things once you’re gone. So how do you give your organization the best chance of success after you’re gone? The answer is effective succession planning.

Read what our firm’s principal Kim McNany has to say about this:

When most people hear the word succession planning, they think of promoting internal employees into higher level positions – often into management.  It is a way to build bench strength within an organization.  It is more helpful to think of succession planning as a strategy to protect the company-  similar to an insurance policy on a piece of property.  Succession planning is a way to plan ahead for the company’s future, to maintain the company’s identity, to build retention within the organization, to transfer business and culture knowledge from leader to leader and to maintain business continuity at it’s most vulnerable times.  

Where does succession planning begin? 

Most companies begin succession planning by focusing only on top tier positions or on senior leadership. In reality, it is most advantageous to evaluate which positions in the company have the greatest impact on the business itself.  Critical impact positions are typically not limited to senior leadership or even a management position.  Taking the time to evaluate your business strategy in detail, will help to identify critical roles that have the most impact on executing the strategy.  A few questions to ask yourself are….Does your company compete on price?  Mass production?  Innovation?   Also, what are the changing business conditions?  What role does culture play in the future state of the business?  Once a complete business strategy scan has been done, internal talent can be assessed for a potential match to the future state of the business.

How is talent identified?

Identifying candidates for succession planning is a tedious process.  It requires business leader alignment of critical success factors.  That is, what knowledge, skill, ability, motivation and company values are needed in those roles that have the most impact on business strategy?  Then, leaders must make it their job to actively identify candidates within the organization that have a high potential to meet those roles.  One common mistake that a company makes is to assume that the best technical person in a role is also a high potential or an emerging leader.  But, it is not about promoting the best technical person. Not all high performers are high potential leaders.  Promoting employees solely based on demonstrated technical ability can take an “A” player and change him to a “B” or “C” leader.  

Once talent is identified, how are they developed?

Successful development of internal talent is dependent upon the candidate’s experience.  Creating an environment where the high potential can gain experience in the workplace is the best measurement of future success.  Some examples might include, training new employees, serving as a lead on continuous improvement events,  , participating in board meetings, or serving as a team lead on a short term project or committee.  This final step in having a solid and effective succession plan is often neglected.  The development process requires a commitment from both the leadership team and the candidate.  But without providing an opportunity for high potentials to learn and demonstrate their capabilities in the role, very few will be ready to step up when the time comes to fill that critical position. 

Final Thoughts

Succession planning takes time.  It takes planning and it takes action.  A solid program requires a commitment from leadership to develop a plan, work the plan and measure its effectiveness on an ongoing basis.  An effective succession plan is a consistent systematic approach to growing talent from within.  One of the greatest responsibilities of any leader is to develop future leaders.  Because at the end of the day, the primary goal of every company is to have the right people, in the right positions, at the right time for the organization’s continued success. 

For assistance in developing a comprehensive succession planning process, or just to discuss this more and learn more about your options, please contact us. 


About Our Firm

For over 40 years Ken Chapman & Associates, Inc. has been making a measurable difference in the corporate cultures of American businesses and in the lives of their team members. KC&A’s value equation is “Committed to People, Profit, and More.”

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