Want Long Term Success? Succession Planning Considers What’s Critical

Succession planning is the key to selecting and developing the people you’ll need to carry out the vision for your company. Often referred to in the realm of family business, it isn’t just about replacing the boss upon retirement. Succession planning is about proactively preparing for the replacement of any key occupations within your organization. Preparing for the next generation of vital positions is important for any business.

A well-defined succession plan will help your business endure in the event of a sudden departure. Apart from your own retirement, this may refer to key players in your company leaving of their own accord. High performers – like others – present a flight risk. And don’t forget, an accident, illness or untimely death is always a possibility. It is important for your company’s future that you are prepared to replace people – before they leave.

A Canadian Federation of Independent Business study reported that 48 per cent of small and medium-sized businesses plan for their future succession. Of those, “the majority are informal, unwritten plans, which have not necessarily been shared with the intended successor.”

Why are so many business owners reluctant to plan ahead? It’s true, most of us would rather not mull over the unpleasant thoughts of our own mortality. And for many, planning for retirement or the unexpected is far off enough that it is something to be dealt with later, much later. After all, there is always something more pressing that needs your attention.

But to protect your hard-earned asset, you must prepare for the unknown. A succession plan is a roadmap for your company’s future. It means you won’t be left in a lurch, financially or operationally, if the unexpected happens. Do the work now to give your business the best chance to survive in the future.


In grooming employees for vital positions, you’ll want to select someone who has proven that he or she is capable of dealing with a variety of challenging situations, and who shares your values and goals. To do this successfully:

  • Plan ahead. The most important aspect of succession planning is to start early. Planning well ahead will permit you to select and train several suitable replacements, working with them over time so that the ultimate candidate will be ready for the job when the day comes.
  • Determine who has the desire, skill and vision necessary for the job. You’ll need to identify each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. Do they possess adequate leadership qualities? Test their abilities in different situations. Give them tasks that demand greater responsibility, and assess their capabilities in those roles.
  • Discuss your plans with top prospects. You don’t want to plan around individuals who, for whatever reason, may not be inclined to step into the role you’ve imagined. Ask about their career goals, and ascertain their level of commitment to your company. Identify high performers early and only with their cooperation, target them with career path training that will help them suitably replace key positions.
  • Develop candidates for the job. Make it a priority to train replacements well before you’ll need to rely on them. Use cross training techniques to ensure more than one person is capable of performing essential tasks. From doing payroll to using computer systems to inventory management, business continuity demands that another staff member can step in if there is a change to the status quo.
  • Establish a timeline for specific events. Determine when training efforts will begin, professional development goals should be met, and primary responsibilities of a task should ultimately transfer. Whenever possible, handing over responsibility should be a gradual process to ensure a smooth and successful transition.

Some managers will hesitate to give more responsibility to high performers, for fear of being outshone. This does your company a great disservice. Remember that a leader’s calibre is often measured by the strength of the team he or she employs. Make the smartest move in regards to the well being of your business and plan ahead for the proper replacement of critical positions within your workplace to ensure the maintenance of their important functions.