Succession Planning: How to Train Your Replacement


A succession plan is a fundamental part of any business’s long-term strategy. It is imperative to the business’s success and continuity that, sooner rather than later, you have identified key talent who will be capable of assuming leadership when the current generation of leaders depart.

This will ensure a streamlined change of hands, even if the circumstances differ from your ‘best case scenario’ plan. After all, even with all the planning in the world, none of us can guarantee that we will be capable of running a business up until our retirement, or the time at which we’re ready to sell our stake in the business.

The first step is, of course, to identify key talent, and to begin training your chosen replacement for a future role in management. Failing to do so may mean that you end up ‘missing the boat’, and finding yourself without a viable replacement to train.

It’s also important that you don’t approach this decision alone. Corporate solicitors are ideal for working through a succession plan with you, and ensuring your exit strategy is as strong as it can be.

But, when it comes to training, there’s only one person fit for the job. Here’s what you need to know.

Focus on time management

It’s vital that you leave yourself enough time to equip your replacement with the knowledge and experience they need to get by without you. Training takes time, even if you think they are the best possible person for the job, so you don’t want to start in the last month or two of your time running the business.

Be fastidious

When you’re talking to someone who you think is perfect to take on a leadership role, it can be hard to strike the balance between mentoring them, and not over-explaining seemingly simple things to them.

However, it is in your best interests – and theirs – to go through everything in detail. Think about:

  • The core responsibilities of the job
    • The common tasks and activities that occupy most of their time
    • The systems, technologies and tools they use on a daily basis
    • The environment they work in
    • How the position fits into the organisation as a whole

Bring them into the fold

As the time draws closer for you to exit the business, it is important that you involve your replacement in key parts of your job. Your process for decision making and approaching problems – for navigating tricky ground and getting the business through pivotal moments – has brought the business great success over the years, and your replacement will learn a great deal from being involved.

It’s no good focussing on theory, and only exposing your successor to the role itself when you are no longer there. Their initial experiences should involve you; that way, you can both grow more confident about the future.

To that end, it’s also worth temporarily handing over specific tasks that they will need to tackle alone when you leave the business permanently. Don’t feed them the answers – give them autonomy, and be there to answer questions that will, inevitably, arise.

Don’t overlook the small stuff

When anyone is asked to describe their role in a business, they will generally focus on the big, momentous tasks they have to handle. The ‘nitty gritty’ of running a business is easily pushed aside and overlooked. The thing is, they are still crucial to your role – and your replacement will have to approach them with the same mindset and expertise as they do the momentous tasks and decisions. Don’t let them get swept under the rug.


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