Last week we discussed identifying your successor. We could write for weeks on the qualities that person should have (and we will), but for now we’ll move on to the next topic..
Once you’ve identified your successor your work is done, right? Wrong. It’s actually just beginning. Now you need to ask another question: What are you doing to prepare the next leader?
Past experience would tell me (maybe you too) that if you ask a leader that question, there is a pretty good chance you’d get an answer that sounded something like, “They’ve worked here for twenty years, they know what to do.” It’s hard to decide whether to laugh or cry when you hear that answer.
The reality is that working in a business for a long period of time does not necessarily correlate to being able to run the business. That individual may know an awful lot about their specific area, but what about the whole picture? What about marketing? What about operations? Do they have all the key relationships you have? Do they understand the financial aspect of the business?
As the business leader, you have knowledge and relationships and responsibilities that they just don’t have. You have to have a detailed, written plan that shows how you’re going to transfer all of those things to your successor. It doesn’t happen accidentally, and it doesn’t happen by osmosis. You have to be intentional.
I’d suggest you start by brainstorming all the key relationships you have. Who are the people you know (Attorney? Supplier? Customer?) that someone else at your business would need to know if you left? What are the responsibilities you have that someone would have to pick up? What do you know that somebody else would have to know for the business to function? Give yourself some credit when you think about these things – there are a lot of things in your head that have to get out for successful transition to happen.
At some point you’ll be gone. Will your successor be prepared?