16th Oct , 2021
Whether you run a listed company, family business, partnership, SME, or any other organisation, to ensure the smooth development of the business from a people perspective, succession planning is an absolute necessity.
A well-developed succession plan not only reduces the ongoing risk to the business of not having the right people at the right time, but is also a prerequisite to a successful exit strategy from the business. Without succession planning, you could unintentionally be setting a recipe for disaster for the business. This could be attributed to unforeseen critical gaps in your organisation positions or skills required to deliver on business growth strategies and ongoing performance.
The bottom line is that if you do not deliver the strategic people capability, then you will not deliver the strategy and get the supporting succession plan implemented.
Our psychology as business leaders, owners, CEOs and senior management can often become overly fixated on “business as usual” to deliver the performance required because our business is dear to us. Significantly, we tend to be very attached to our businesses, as we have created, contributed to and nurtured our existing businesses to make them our successful enterprises. We tend to have a resistance to forward planning as to how and when we will “pass on the baton.” Hence succession planning is often neglected or delayed. This procrastination becomes more dangerous with time, as it may lead to increasing risks to the business and can result in suboptimal decision-making, particularly with regards to hiring, firing and developing people across the organisation.
Therefore, ongoing and careful succession planning must be integral to our strategic processes. This is to enable our businesses to deliver on their strategies with the appropriate target organisation structures, with the right people, with the right skills and experience, at the right time. Formal succession planning is also needed to underpin any exit strategy by senior leaders and critical staff from the organisation, or for an exit from the business by its owners – such as a sale of the business, or an IPO – and this succession planning must be addressed well ahead of such events. A smooth transition, that has been well thought out and where the selection and training has been thorough, will help to avoid significant grief. In the event of a business exit by owners, this will help to underpin the business valuation, as this risk will be better managed. This better management is in the people and organisational capability to deliver the future projected incomes and levels of service required to meet expectations that support the business valuation on exit.
A business coach or mentor from International Business Mentors can help you consider systematic succession planning to support your capability in the future to deliver performance and reduce the risks of not having the capability and people to support your strategy and performance. Our business coaching professionals have experienced the succession process and can guide you in formalising your procedures.
Business owners and those who have held leadership positions in a business that they love can find it hard to address who will succeed them. After all, it’s hard to let go and it can be extremely emotional to approach this subject. However, with the right support, encouragement and assistance from an experienced business coach or mentor, you can work through the process and any decisions that need to be made so you can develop a succession strategy as to who and when succession will take place.
Family businesses find succession planning difficult as there can be complex situations given their close relationships, for example: multiple competing candidates in the next generation who want the top job. To unblock this and to develop succession plans, it’s recommended that an independent and impartial facilitator help implement the processes required so sub-optimal decisions can be avoided.
The independence of an International Business Mentors business coach or mentor can guide you to assess who is best suited for which roles, and how to present this to wider family members. The succession plans will also help in decisions on the transfer of ownership from one generation to the next, or to an outsider. This is vitally important in optimising the value of the business.
Once you have implemented a structured succession plan and ongoing update process, you can focus more clearly on the rest of the job, such as running the business and creating value for all stakeholders, family members and employees, developing business growth strategies, employing relevant staff, and where appropriate, head hunting new talent into the organisation.
In family businesses, having a clear people succession plan and an ownership succession plan can help avoid difficulties with estates and assets, which otherwise can lead to unnecessarily unpleasant and costly disputes between family members.
There are often very sensitive considerations or issues that must be addressed as part of succession strategy in family businesses. This is particularly true where some family members are not capable of adequately filling the required leadership positions, or do not possess the necessary skills or aptitude to drive the business forward in the absence of the previous owner. Further, there may be instances whereby some of the upcoming generation have worked in the business and others have not had that opportunity. This can lead to further friction with passing on shares as part of the ownership succession plan.
If there is an exit anticipated from the business by the owners and family, then a candid open family discussion well ahead of such an exit event is a necessary component for a successful transition. This process can be started by dialogue with family members and key employees, which a business coach experienced in succession can facilitate.
It is sometimes recommended to consider establishing a family council, as this more formal and structured approach can greatly aid communication. A family council should be the natural forum for discussions on exit plans and succession plans. However, it is the business itself that usually has the authority to accept and implement any succession plans for the business, as the family council will contain those who do not work, hold directorships or have ownership in the family business.
To progress succession planning in the family business, the current business owners need to establish and document their aspirations of how the business should be taken forward and supported by the succession plan in order to deliver the overall business strategy.
Business culture is important in succession plans. Having built a business culture that reflects how the business is run, it’s important for the next generation to understand how that culture generates the strategic performance required and reflects the family business ethos and values.
If the family business has a board of directors, it should have strong independent directors in addition to the family board members in order to maintain a focus on the business’ performance and help resolve any family issues that arise. This may be simply to move family related matters off the board agenda and onto the family council’s agenda. The addition of an independent experienced business mentor or business coach is another desirable approach, as they can help you to consider how best to set up your board and how it should operate, as well as helping you consider difficult issues when these arise.
Relationships with other stakeholders of the businesses also need to be considered and be well managed in a succession plan. These relationships include key employees, suppliers, clients or customers, and financial institutions – all of which have a good working relationship with the outgoing owner and senior management. They too must be factored into the succession plan. Questions must be asked and answered as to who will maintain these critical relationships in the future and how you can successfully transfer these relationships to your successors.
As much as an incoming younger generation to the family business may be enthusiastic and capable, they may be inexperienced and need training and development. Assistance from a well-matched business coaching professional can help provide them with the support and help they need to develop into the roles of your succession plan.
Handovers of positions to new successors in their new roles is a serious business and should not be rushed. Adequate time and thought needs to be planned for these handovers. Without this, valuable knowledge and experience will be lost and the successor will not competently step up in their new positions – to their detriment and to the detriment of the business, with increased risk, reduced performance and lower business values.
The above are just some of the main issues needing to be considered when planning for succession. However, your business will have unique factors to your particular industry or circumstances, and to successfully implement succession planning, you should seek impartial, unbiased, experienced and independent support from a business mentor or business coach. International Business Mentors can match you with a business coach or mentor with deep experience and understanding of the complicities and practicalities of business succession based on their own business experience.
The downside of not preparing for and implementing succession plans is higher risk if you don’t have the right people with the right skills capable of delivering your business and its strategy at the right time.
The benefits of succession planning are lower risks, better planning and management of your people, easier changeover of positions, better recruitment and training, less stress for you in transitioning your own position and the business in the future, and better business values.
Call International Business Mentors now to discuss how one of our business mentors or business coaches can support you in planning your succession.