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Succession Planning

Thinking of succession planning results in mixed reactions, some business owners refuse to believe that a day will come when they could or would have to step away, and others can't wait for the day that they have created enough success to finally hand it all over. In either philosophy succession planning is an important step in a well thought business model.

The time to start thinking about a succession plan is at the start of your business or right now if you haven't thought of it before. You may be asking why? I will give you two very simple reasons. The first is to combat the unknown. Tragedy and illness are rarely expected or foreseen before they are upon you. In these circumstances it's important to have a person or people that can take over for you if you need to be away. The second reason is because you deserve a break every once in a while. Business owners are notoriously hardworking and dedicated, but if you don't have the ability to hand over the reins for a week to get some much deserved R & R you won't be able to be as effective. And if success means never leaving the office to spend time with your loved ones or see the world is it really success?

Here are some things to consider for your succession plan:

Cultivate Leadership – most business owners are going to work hard to hire good employees. A good employee is an undeniable asset. A good tip for succession planning is to groom your successor, or an exceptional manager who can handle things if you need to be gone. It can take months or years to pass on the knowledge of your company's operations. So clue in your successor now, make sure to instill in them the company's values and ensure the development of good communication skills. Show faith in them by giving them more responsibility over operations, other employees, and with clients and vendors.

Be sensitive to clients & customers – A lot of small business owners built their client base through personal connections. Clients that began with you may struggle with changes or with feeling "passed off" to other employees. A way to show faith in your successor or manager and to put clients at ease is to introduce them to your successor early. Having your successor sit in on meetings, and complete smaller less vital tasks will reduce the feelings of abandonment and create the comfort of a familiar face if and when you need to be away.

Stay organized – Having a list of procedures or a project management system in place can be helpful. This "cheat sheet" can be a nice guide for your successor/manager if you need to be away. It may also be helpful to put together a list of company logins and passwords. You want to avoid leaving your successor asking questions of how and when you did your job or without access to any of the tools to be able to do it. Also, remember to involve your CPA and attorney in your succession plan.

Starting a business means that in a lot of ways you are irreplaceable, but to ensure the continuation of your business after you wish to retire or during unforeseen events it's essential to consider succession. Much like a parent you will have born your idea, cultivated it into maturity, and watch it take off independently into the future. If that's not success I don't know what is.

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