A successful succession plan doesn’t start with an employee exit – it starts now. As the Chinese proverb goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second best time is today.” The more time you have to plan your exit from your company, the greater likelihood the transition will be positive for you, your successor, and your clients.
George Hartman, the managing director at Accretive Advisors, recommends the following four steps in creating a succession plan for your business and your clients:
1. Plan carefully
To ensure that your succession plan unfolds the way you intend, it is important to document the process. With a written plan, you will be better equipped to implement the process and communicate it to others.
2. Choose wisely
It is essential to choose a successor with the right skills, experience, career philosophy, and personality to provide your clients with the level of service they have come to expect from you. This decision is of particular importance, as it will directly influence how your life’s work will be handled after you have left the company.
3. Implement slowly
Hartman recommends that the succession process take at least 2-3 years, even though 12-18 months is a more common choice in his industry. Taking more time to implement your succession plan ensures that all planned aspects will be fully addressed while you are still involved in your company.
4. Communicate fully
It is important for you to talk to your stakeholders about the process during the time of your transition. Your stakeholders include your clients, your staff members, your colleagues, and your management. The future is unpredictable. Your clients need to be assured that they will have a consistent experience with your company, even in the event of an employee’s retirement, sudden illness, or death.
- Your personal career knowledge or specialty
- Your account management processes and approach
- Your strategy for attracting new business
- Your method for ensuring profit
- Your relationship approach with clients
Providing your successor with this level of mentoring can take years. To aid in the mentoring process, a structured mentoring program could be developed that would ensure that all necessary skills have been transferred to the successor. If your knowledge is captured in a document, your successor will be able to access your shared expertise long after you have moved on from the company.
Even if your successor mentoring process is going well, you’re only halfway to effectively orchestrating your plan. It is absolutely essential that your clients are comfortable with being transitioned to another employee. You need to facilitate the growth of a trusting relationship between your clients and your successor. To do this, you might involve your successor in client meetings to introduce him/her to your clients’ backgrounds, needs, interests, et cetera.
If your clients’ needs and expectations are met during the transition process, your successor will have a great foundation for his/her future relationship with these clients.