Successful succession planning requires that those most affected by the transition be on board. So what does it take to get buy-in on your succession plan?
If you spring a transition on those affected at the last minute, you don’t give them the space they need to get comfortable with the idea. Depending on the size of your company and how much you are still required to make day-to-day decisions, it could take several months, even years to set the stage for a change in the status quo.
Leaving stakeholders in the dark creates an atmosphere of mistrust. In the absence of honest information from you, they begin to speculate and make assumptions. Many employees will leave for a more secure job if they suspect their employer doesn’t have a thoughtful plan for transition. They wonder, “What happens if the owner dies or becomes disabled as she heads into her mid-sixties? When will she retire? Who will take over – her kids?”
There’s a debate about whether or not you should share this information early in the process. Thomas Deans, author of Every Family’s Business argues that your business should always be for sale. Employees should know that when the time comes, you will make the best decision, one that is mutually beneficial. If you don’t have an open relationship with your employees, it might not be the right strategy to give advance notice of your intentions. However, since you’re reading this article, you probably know that we advocate more, rather than less, communication.
You need to make a persuasive argument for change that includes benefits for other stakeholders. One business owner in Toronto offered to buy BMWs for his management team if they stuck around for the sale of the business and helped him get the price he wanted. Will a new owner invest cash in the business to make it more secure? Will employees be offered bonuses to stay?
You will get pushback. Prepare for it. People generally dislike change, even if it is in their best interest. You’ll need to go in with your eyes open and stand firm on your decision.
You’ll need to keep pushing forward in spite of the obstacles thrown in your path. Even when you take the time to communicate, other ‘priorities’ arise that will tempt you to take your eye off the ball.
If you get buy-in from your employees they are more likely to help rather than hinder the process and that makes for a smoother transition.