Extract 10:3 Succession

Ray Moore’s upcoming book launch of ‘The Growth Manual for the SME Business Owner‘ (Title TBC) brings business owner a unique perceptive on how to achieve effective and sustainable growth.

 This extract is from Chapter 10- Succession. 

Many years ago, someone said to me “Time maketh the man”.

As a young man, I took this to mean that, whenever I might be given a new and maybe challenging opportunity, I simply needed to ‘do my time’ and I’d prove I could handle the situation – eventually.

In my slightly more mature years, I now see a truer meaning to this old saying – that the ‘time’ element doesn’t simply involve the long hard toil. To step up to a new challenge, it has to be an investment in the future, including the time it takes to plan, prepare and mentor.

Let’s make this clearer.

Succession is a process not an event and for this process to be successful you may have to re-assess the value of your time and start a process of leveraging yourself out of the ‘doing business’ mode.

That will probably require an investment in the systems used within your company to ensure you get the right information you need to make decisions.

What I’d like to focus on in this  process is the importance of ‘stepping up’. That’s a step up on your behalf as the owner into the role of working on (rather than in) your business and a step up for someone else to take on a more managerial role. Whether this is someone already working within your business or a new recruit, the same conditions apply – they have to show they are ready for that opportunity and so do you.

In his book, ‘The Hero’s Farewell’ (1988), Jeffrey Sonnenfeld identified four attitudes that prevail at the time of succession. The traits he describes are ones we see over and over again, both in historical leaders and in the realm of business. I’d like you to consider just two of these for a moment.

The General

Generals are forced out of office, but plot their return. They quickly come back out of retirement to save the company. Sometimes there is a plan for succession but there is no commitment behind the plan and key areas of understanding are not passed on. The successor is set up to fail.

The Ambassador

Ambassadors leave office gracefully and frequently serve as post-retirement mentors. There is a clear succession plan which is a process (not an event) to pass on the understanding so that the successor has the best chance of success.

OK, so we’re not planning for your retirement quite yet, but if you’re going to get into a position where the business doesn’t rely on you, it’s going to need a succession plan. Are you going to be a General or an Ambassador?

I really hope you said ‘Ambassador’ right there because that is your route to the lifestyle choices you have in mind. Take note also of the words used here too – that your role as a leader is to pass on ‘understanding’, not just knowledge.

To help you plan for this process of stepping up, I’d like you to consider these four questions right now:

  • Am I keeping my reigns on the business and, if so, why?

This is a big question which in most cases relates to your mindset as the owner. It may be you still think you’re only ‘doing something’ by remaining in the thick of things and, without changing that attitude, the dependency of the business on you will remain high. Check out your reasons and see if they are really true.

  • When is the right time to start handing things over?

There are no hard and fast rules here and ultimately, this is going to be down to your own judgement. However, for things to work well, the timing has to include scope for careful planning and communication of that plan to all the stakeholders involved.

  • How do I know who is the best person to take over some of my responsibilities?

This is often one of the most difficult things for a business owner to face. It’s the old ‘I know how to do it best’ situation! Try to look at any candidate from a viewpoint based on fact rather than emotion and remember, for you to have a chance of stepping up, you have to give someone else that chance too. This is an area where it may help to seek the opinion of an external independent advisor who will be able to give an emotion-free view.

  • How do we go about the process of handover?

Recognising it is a process (not a single event) is actually the only thing you need to keep in mind. So, to begin with, think about the environment and the boundaries your business operates within. Initially, whoever takes over some of the ‘doing’ for you is going to need a safe environment to work in, some tight boundaries and perhaps a period of coaching.

Thinking about each of these questions should help you to see a clear, focused and measured path towards the place where you are investing in the future of your business.

Keep an eye on this blog to be the first to know of the book launch! If you are interested in getting a copy of the upcoming book please email: marketing@team-results.co.uk

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