Small Business Succession Planning Checklist

You have built your business and you’ve seen success, but now you’re ready to plan for a life after years of hard work. The best time to prepare a business succession plan, if you do not have one in place, is NOW.

When business owners fail to plan properly for a smooth exit, missed opportunities and errors can occur. While there is no “one size fits all” small business succession plan, you can get started with our quick and easy-to-follow succession planning checklist below.

Succession Planning Checklist Overview

  1. ID critical positions
  2. Talk to family and current employees
  3. Choose a successor
  4. Define goals and objectives
  5. Develop exit strategy
  6. Transfer your knowledge

Now let’s dig a little deeper into each of these…

A Deeper Dive Into the Checklist

✓ Identify positions that are critical to the organization’s operational activities and objectives.

Take a look at the positions of your organization, specifically those that influence organizational policies, strategic goals, business operations, or mission-critical projects. You’ll want to ensure that these critical positions are staffed by the right people. Additionally you will want to identify if any of these critical roles will become vacant, and outline a plan to fill them if they do. 

✓ Bring together family and current employees to discuss their interests in the future of the organization and the role they’d like to play in it. Do they have the competencies to ensure the success of the business?

Having an open and transparent conversation with your family and current employees is key to the success of your business once you step down. While these conversations may not always be pleasant, they will help you identify who is all in and will be able to truly lead the business.

✓ Choose a successor when you are no longer able to run the business.

Whether it be family, an existing employee, or a new recruit – you will need to choose a successor when you are no longer able to run the business. Your ideal candidate to fill this role should be supportive, proactive, engaged with learning and development, adaptable and eager to take on more responsibility.

✓ Define goals and objectives pertaining to organizational culture, financials, business development, talent management, and business continuity.

Develop the vision and goals for the future of the business. You’ll want to think about the company structure and how it can evolve and change in the next 5 years. From there you will  want to create a forecast of what is needed to execute these goals.

✓ Develop and communicate your exit strategy with a reasonable timeline.

Communicate with all affected individuals your plan and your timeline. Identify key points in your timeline for areas of transfer as well as implementation.

✓ Incorporate strategies for learning, training, development, and the transfer of corporate knowledge into your succession planning and management.

Transferring the knowledge you hold is important for all roles. This can be done through job shadowing, cross-training, formal training, and mentoring. You’ll also need to document critical information to help facilitate this transfer.

This is definitely not an all-inclusive list. It’s just something to get you started thinking. There are so many small details to consider when it comes to business succession. Want more information? Check out our list of 5 tips to start your small business succession plan. 

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