Business Succession Planning:
Succession planning is a process for identifying and developing internal people with the potential to fill key business leadership positions in the company. Succession planning increases the availability of experienced and capable employees that are prepared to assume these roles as they become available. Taken narrowly, “replacement planning” for key roles is the heart of succession planning.
Effective succession or talent-pool management concerns itself with building a series of feeder groups up and down the entire leadership pipeline or progression. In contrast, replacement planning is focused narrowly on identifying specific back-up candidates for given senior management positions. For the most part position-driven replacement planning (often referred to as the “truck scenario”) is a forecast, which research indicates does not have substantial impact on outcomes.
Fundamental to the succession-management process is an underlying philosophy that argues that top talent in the corporation must be managed for the greater good of the enterprise. Merck and other companies argue that a “talent mindset” must be part of the leadership culture for these practices to be effective.
Succession planning is a process whereby an organization ensures that employees are recruited and developed to fill each key role within the company. Through your succession planning process, you recruit superior employees, develop their knowledge, skills, and abilities, and prepare them for advancement or promotion into ever more challenging roles. Actively pursuing succession planning ensures that employees are constantly developed to fill each needed role. As your organization expands, loses key employees, provides promotional opportunities, and increases sales, your succession planning guarantees that you have employees on hand ready and waiting to fill new roles.
According to a 2006 Canadian Federation of Independent Business survey, slightly more than one-third of independent business owners plan to exit their business within the next 5 years and within the next 10 years two-thirds of owners plan to exit their business. The survey also found that small and medium-sized enterprises are not adequately prepared for their business succession: only 10% of owners have a formal, written succession plan; 38% have an informal, unwritten plan; and the remaining 52% do not have any succession plan at all. The results are backed by a 2004 CIBC survey which suggests that succession planning is increasingly becoming a critical issue. By 2010, CIBC estimates that $1.2 trillion in business assets are poised to change hands.
Research indicates many succession-planning initiatives fall short of their intent (Corporate Leadership Council, 1998). “Bench strength,” as it is commonly called, remains a stubborn problem in many if not most companies. Studies indicate that companies that report the greatest gains from succession planning feature high ownership by the CEO and high degrees of engagement among the larger leadership team.
Companies that are well known for their succession planning and executive talent development practices include: GE, Honeywell, IBM, Marriott, Microsoft, Pepsi and Procter & Gamble. Research indicates that clear objectives are critical to establishing effective succession planning. These objectives tend to be core to many or most companies that have well-established practices: Identify those with the potential to assume greater responsibility in the organization Provide critical development experiences to those that can move into key roles Engage the leadership in supporting the development of high-potential leaders Build a database that can be used to make better staffing decisions for key jobs In other companies these additional objectives may be embedded in the succession process: Improve employee commitment and retention, meet the career development expectations of existing employees, counter the increasing difficulty and costs of recruiting employees externally.
Companies devise elaborate models to characterize their succession and development practices. Most reflect a cyclical series of activities that include these fundamentals:
- Identify key roles for succession or replacement planning
- Define the competencies and motivational profile required to undertake those roles
- Assess people against these criteria – with a future orientation
- Identify pools of talent that could potentially fill and perform highly in key roles
- Develop employees to be ready for advancement into key roles – primarily through the right set of experiences.
In many companies, over the past several years, the emphasis has shifted from planning job assignments to development, with much greater focus on managing key experiences that are critical to growing global business leaders.
Business Exit Planning:
With the global proliferation of Small and Mid-sized Enterprises (SME’s), issues of business succession and continuity have become increasingly common. When the owner of a business becomes incapacitated or passes away, it is often necessary to shut down an otherwise healthy business. Or in many instances, successors inherit a healthy business, which is forced into bankruptcy because of lack of available liquidity to pay inheritance taxes and other taxes. Proper planning helps avoid many of the problems associated with succession and transfer of ownership.
Business Exit Planning is a body of knowledge which began developing in the United States towards the end of the 20th century, and is now spreading globally. A Business Exit Planning exercise begins with the shareholder(s) of a company defining their objectives with respect to an eventual exit, and then executing their plan, as the following definition suggests:
Business Exit Planning is the process of explicitly defining exit-related objectives for the owner(s) of a business, followed by the design of a comprehensive strategy and road map that take into account all personal, business, financial, legal, and taxation aspects of achieving those objectives, usually in the context of planning the leadership succession and continuity of a business. Objectives may include maximizing (or setting a goal for) proceeds, minimizing risk, closing a Transaction quickly, or selecting an investor that will ensure that the business prospers. The strategy should also take into account contingencies such as illness or death.
All personal and business aspects should be taken into consideration. This is also a good time to plan an efficient transfer from the point of view of possibly applicable estate taxes, capital gains taxes, or other taxes.
Sale of a business is not the only form of exit. Forms of exit may also include Initial Public Offering, Management Buyout, passing on the firm to next-of-kin, or even bankruptcy. Bringing on board financial strategic or financial partners may also be considered a form of exit, to the extent that it may help ensure succession and survival of the business.
In developed countries, the so-called “baby boomer” demographic wave is now reaching the stage where serious consideration needs to be given to exit. Hence, the importance of Business Exit Planning is expected to further increase in the coming years.
Most large corporations assign a process owner for talent and succession management. Resourcing of the work varies widely from numbers of highly dedicated internal consultants to limited professional support embedded in the roles of human resources generalists. Often these staff resources are separate from external staffing or recruiting functions. Some companies today seek to integrate internal and external staffing. Others are more inclined to integrate succession management with the performance management process in order simplify the work for line managers.