Succession planning is, to some, an admission of their own mortality. Understandably, many CEOs put it off. But without a plan, business owners miss out on being able to ensure business continuity and future direction. CEOs also risk creating extra trauma for their businesses when there could already be trauma due to some unexpected accident or event.
Whether you're the spry young age of 28 and just starting up or 55 and looking for early retirement, a succession plan should be on your mind if you want to see your business succeed. "I'm 38 years old, and I have a succession plan already," says Robert Bradford, CEO of the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning (www.cssp.com), a consulting firm focusing on strategic planning for small- and mid-sized businesses, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The time to start planning is now.
But where do you start? Bradford suggests starting with the understanding of two things about the CEO role: balance and function. "A CEO needs a sense of balance," Bradford says. The CEO role balances finances, marketing and operations, and depending on what background the potential successor is coming from, the CEO should evaluate what the person's perspective is - i.e., sales, finances, etc. - and discover ways to give the candidate the perspective that will allow him or her to balance their history or career with the new role.
Second, the CEO's function is often that of visionary. CEOs spend a good deal of their time deeply involved in strategic thinking, and therefore, a CEO needs to involve a potential successor in his or her strategic thinking process. "Give him or her a chance to learn by doing," Bradford says. You need to be able to grow the next CEO into the job as your company grows, which entails knowing the business's direction as well as CEO responsibilities.
Once you've understood the role, you're ready to begin putting a plan into place. Bradford offers these steps to get you started.
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