Monday, December 13, 2010

Business Succession Planning for Entrepreneurs

A succession plan is an integral part of your overall business plan document. It will clearly map out what must happen for you to exit the business—how and when you choose.

Putting a formal succession plan in place will help you:
Survive changes in ownership and continue as a successful entity
Identify and address family issues before they become  disagreements
Minimise tax liabilities and maximise return
Ensure an orderly transfer of control and competencies
Prepare the business and future leadership for transition

Development of the next generation of leader is a paramount task. "It is instructive here to recall that Noah started building the ark before it began to rain." Prior planning prevents poor performance. Without the proper methodology being utilized to prepare for personnel turn-over or unavailability, the corporation can be sent into panic hiring, can fail to continue to implement strategic plans because of the loss of a key individual, and multiple other pitfalls because they were not ready.
Short Term Needs

Planning must account for short time frame notification items. What does the company do when two executive VPs are killed in a plane crash? Who has been groomed and is ready to be "acting" in their place until they can be either ramped up to the permanent replacement or until an executive search reveals the best candidate? When a top executive resigns and moves to a competitor, has the company already instituted a program to ensure that individuals know that strategic plans, customer accounts, and other vital critical business information is in fact the exclusive property of the company and had these key individuals sign off on non-disclosure agreements? If they had not done this prior to hiring the defecting manager, are they prepared to ensure that incoming key personnel are required to affirm their loyalty in exchange for the position?

Mid-Range Needs
Personnel will retire. The text gives the example of GM and their planning process. Any company that is not preparing a like plan for grooming and testing the capabilities of personnel who may be tapped to be the top executive must seriously consider how prepared they really are to do business. Failing to plan is, in effect, planning to fail.
Retirements with long lead windows give companies ample time to try people in the proposed position, to be more closely mentored, or to be given charge of substantially more responsibility to see how they are able to handle the situations that they will be confronted with when they are given the nod.

"Organizations that understand the immediacy of the baby boom exit and thoughtfully prepare for it will be in the best position to achieve unmatched success." The questions businesses should be asking themselves to prepare for the coming demographic change. Some of them are:

  • What are your company's demographics (age, gender, position, years in position and anniversary date)?
  • What are your company's retirement policies? Is early retirement encouraged or discouraged?
  • What mechanisms and programs must be put in place now to capture key competencies and critical work knowledge of employees who will be retiring?
  • Will your organization need to increase its reliance on new immigrants?
  • If your organization is offshoring, what is the age breakdown of your overseas partners?
  • Will your offshoring partners face a labor shortage that may impact their ability to provide services?

Others also point out that businesses need to position themselves to deal with the needs of an aging population. There may be a need for unique skill sets and competencies, as well as a need for new or modified product designs to be marketed to the aging population. These issues tie back into business continuity planning. To continue to be competitive in the future,
businesses have to prepare for the shifting change in the average age.

The Process
The process of succession planning entails assessing what positions are critical to have a succession contingency plan. The positions are assessed, and then the skill sets of the candidates that could fill these positions are assessed, factoring in the time frame that would be required to get them up to speed for the position. A training program must then be implemented to ensure that there is progress in bringing these individuals closer to a more immediate insertion rate in case a planned position turns over. This will ensure a more seamless transfer for the person in waiting and provide a measure of corporate stability in a challenging time.

Our Four Phase approach to succession:

Phase One:
Determine the exit timing and requirements of key stakeholders
includes Succession Needs Analysis
Interviews with key managers and family members

Phase Two:
Prepare the business for a smooth succession
Includes detailed analysis of current state  of  business      
Action plans for preparing the business for succession

Phase Three:
Research and consider all viable succession options
Covers all viable options: legal, funding &

Phase Four:
Select the preferred options and develop an implementation plan
Provides a formal written succession plan

What ever the level of your business plan, using the latest in business plan software will ensure that you get the succession planning element of it right. With business finance increasingly hard to come by and competition being increasingly fierce, getting every element of your business ready for what the future may hold is now more important than ever.

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