Strategies for effective succession planning

Rose Muthoni @rosemuthoniN

Numerous articles and books have been written addressing succession planing and how important it is for company longevity and shareholder protection. They have identified potential pitfalls and given solution to numerous problems encountered when selecting who should be the successor in case of death or disability.

Most have revolved around selection and transition between owners and managers. But what happens when you have no one to run your business when you are gone? What do you do if your children do not share your dream or if your employees are not suited to take over? Do not worry, here are steps you can take as early as today to ensure your company is not buried when you are no longer in charge.

Start with what you are sure of

A sturdy house is built on a solid foundation. There are employees in your organisation you are sure are ride or die. They will stick with you no matter what, through it all the good and the bad. You can always plan your succession from that point. Empower them and show them the ropes. Review your goals for the business as they exist today and move further into the future you anticipate. This should give you a framework you can use to plan for your company’s life once you are no longer in the picture.

Know your people as people

When running a business, it is very easy to get lost in your employees’ performance. We tend to forget what they can or cannot do. It is important to know their goals and ambitions. Ask yourself these questions. Are they curious, or content to do what is set out for them? Can they tolerate experimentation and the occasional misstep? Do they prefer to work independently or highly collaboratively? How committed are they? Which individuals are the last ones in and the first one out every day? How many of them go the extra mile? This is the only sure way to identify a successor among your talent pool.

More than one successor

You do not have to leave your business to one individual. More people can run it. It is unfair for you as a business owner to expect that a single person can do everything. Explore instead what else each person could do if it were necessary, and how these people could work in concert with others. This will help you pinpoint successors in different departments.


It is important that you cross-train as much as possible. This will bring to light interdepartmental connections and let possible successors see how decisions in one part of the business affect other parts. Provide progressive learning experiences, in which you introduce individuals to the serious decision-making and leadership needs of the company.

Let your leadership candidates shadow you when you meet with a prospect, or conduct due diligence discussion with a potential acquisition.

Involve your talent in important decisions. Instead of selecting a successor on your own, discuss with them the pros and cons of each option. Challenge your star employees by letting them make decisions that you would otherwise make. It will not hurt if you sponsor your employees for further studies.

Seek advise

You might be very good at what you do but poor in identifying potential successors. Your close business allies might just come in handy. Talk to your suppliers, lawyers, accountants or bankers. They might have seen a star among your employees that you had failed to notice.

Document an emergency plan

Life is unpredictable. Anything can happen. It is important to take precaution even if you do not have a successor in mind. Document important aspects about running your business including who needs to be informed about your absence, handling payroll and who should be in charge of deliveries and invoicing. By all means, do not do this alone. Get all your crucial personnel together to discuss. You will learn a couple of things they do behind the scenes, and they will learn about things you have never thought to articulate before. A proper succession plan will move your company forward without a hitch.

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