Small business continuity and succession planning

Of all the possible interruptions to business continuity for small businesses that are the least often considered, but the most likely to stop a company’s operations, lack of succession planning is high on the list. The difficulty associated with finding someone to take over when the current owner or manager retires is compounded by the length of the process. To do it right often requires doing it over a period of some years – often between three and five. While each business will have its own needs, there are some common steps that can be taken.

Essentially, the process can be structured to include three basic parts to ensure business continuity: figure out where the company’s going; understand what that means in terms of management competence required; and make a plan to put what’s necessary in place. Where’s the company going? That’ll be defined in your company vision and long term plan. If you don’t have these two things, then now is a great time to get them. It’s also the right time to review or define, as appropriate, the culture of the company (that famous “the way we do things round here”) and any need for a successor to fit, add to or change that culture.

After that, it’s checklists of skillsets and capabilities for current management positions, and ticking the boxes to see what you have and what you still need to develop. Whereas business continuity is often seen as the domain of managers in operations, IT, manufacturing and similar, this is an example of a case where human resources management needs to be involved. The job title of the person in fact contributing might be “Finance and Admin Director”, if there’s no separate HR department, but it’s an HR contribution that is required to develop specific training and development plans as part of the succession strategy.