All Articles Leadership It's unwise to procrastinate succession planning

It’s unwise to procrastinate succession planning

2 min read


SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Small Business — tracks feedback from small-business owners. We run the poll question each Thursday in our e-newsletter.

Two weeks ago, we asked: Last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook launched the iPhone 4S and the company lost its iconic founder, Steve Jobs, reinvigorating an ongoing discussion on organizational succession planning. Does your business have a formal succession plan?

  • No, we haven’t really considered it: 45%
  • No, we don’t have anything formal, but we do talk about it: 32%
  • Yes, and we’re constantly updating it: 13%
  • Yes, but we haven’t looked at it recently: 10%

Succession planning is a critical component to the success of your business. Identifying future leaders and developing them to be able to take on positions of additional responsibility takes time. The last thing you want to do is wait until the last minute to figure out who will run the company when you decide to retire.

True story: I once worked for a small company owned by a husband and wife. They had two children, and I think they always thought their kids would eventually run the business someday. At some point, the kids said, “Nah, we don’t want to do that.” And while the couple probably won’t admit it, they really struggled to find senior leadership they thought could take the reins.

The purpose of succession planning is to identify the options you have for future leadership and create a development plan to get those individuals ready. If you don’t have the talent inside the company, its purpose is to develop a plan to find the leadership you need outside the company.

Sharlyn Lauby is the HR Bartender and president of ITM Group.