All Companies Need to Look at Succession Planning

Most owners of small- to medium-sized businesses and their senior managers give little consideration to succession planning. In fact, it is often considered synonymous with exiting. And while these two phenomena are related and can overlap, they are not the same thing.

Succession planning has many nuances separate and distinct from exit planning that are more critical to strategic planning than most realize, and go well beyond the chief executive or president.


Whereas running a mature-stage company requires an ability to manage teams, incorporate outside professional or technical services into the process, delegate responsibilities and evaluate people and performance. It takes an ability to function as a smaller cog in a larger machine; the ability to manage agendas, oversee processes and drive the vision underpinning them,


At the growth stage, a leader needs to be able to build teams and define and divide responsibilities; have sales and business development skills while the business ramps and the team is still in formation; and an ability to communicate with key stakeholders of widely varying levels of sophistication.


In startup or early stage companies, the skills needed include the ability to handle varied and multiple tasks in a resource-constrained environment, as well as strong drive and self-confidence at this stage, since most of the bucks stop with you. If you play hooky on a given day, the world stops for the company.


Core general, innate skills include: Self-confidence; poise under pressure; empathy; analytical ability; ability to listen and project strength of character with a human touch; and ability to motivate people and establish and develop relationships.


Succession planning comes down to this: Are more general, innate skills critical to the leadership of your company, or are more situation-specific skills?


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