One of the keys to a successful transition is being sure that the people who take over for you are prepared to succeed. You need to fill key roles in your company with well-trained, qualified professionals – your succession planning team.
If you’re selling or merging the company, you may have a limited amount of time – perhaps just months or even weeks – to explore and identify this team (which may come from your company and the purchasing or merging one). But if you’re retiring or simply disengaging yourself from the company’s operations, planning your succession team can and should begin years before the baton is passed, because new leadership will likely come from within your walls. The earlier you begin thinking about and exploring options, the easier it will be to transfer authority and knowledge.
One reason an advance succession plan is critical in small companies is because your talent pool is more limited than in larger organizations. Also, if you begin the process early, you can establish a career path and a leadership development and management training program for superior performers whom you believe can be possible successors. (Those employees should also take their own initiative to prepare for promotion, by asking for greater responsibilities and more challenging duties in the company.)