Succession and Continuity Planning for Your Business
Today’s the first day of fall, and seasonal changes often bring with them the reminder that planning for the future is something we often neglect to do until it becomes absolutely essential.
To every thing there is a season, and your business is not an exception to the rule. At some point the current leaders will give way to new leaders, and whether you’re trying to keep a family business in the family or you’re preparing a buy-sell strategy, you’ll need to contemplate preservation, valuation, and a blueprint for the future of your business.
The Importance of a Plan
If you don’t already have a plan in place to ensure business continuity, you should draft one. Not only will this plan benefit the next generation of leadership, but it will provide a clearer look into how your business is functioning now, and just how prepared you are for growth and change.
When new presidential candidates are about to be elected, many constituents fear that the current office holder will leave behind a mess for the next incumbent. The same can happen when businesses change hands.
You don’t want to leave your company in its current state for someone to inherit or step into. They may not be used to doing without the things you’ve learned to ignore or work around and, anytime someone is adjusting to a new environment, system, and set of responsibilities, the margin for error and likelihood of mismanagement increase greatly.
Andrew J. Sherman writes that only 35 percent of family businesses survive past the first generation of ownership, followed by only 20 percent who make it to the third generation. Source: Entrepreneurship.org “Understanding the Fundamentals of Succession and Transition Planning.” Preparation can increase your odds of a nearly seamless transition, so your plans should be well-structured, well-documented, and reviewed by all key team members.
The Succession Planning Process
In order to prepare, you’ll have to plan each step of the process and lock arms with the people you’ve identified as the next generation of leadership. The following steps will provide the framework for the succession planning process:
Identify key leaders who will be succeeded by new leaders
Determine the job functions and skills of those current leaders
Select the most appropriate team members to participate in succession planning
Discuss differences between their current roles and probable leadership roles
Develop plans for your next wave of leadership and help them perform preparatory activities
Interview and select your new leadership team and establish an orientation timeline
Getting Your Ducks in a Row: How Succession Planning Relates to Your Important Documentation
There are many important facets to making sure essential business elements are in place so that the successors aren’t left scrambling to establish parameters and processes pertaining to your company’s vital documentation. The following business-critical steps should all be addressed now, whether transition is imminent or a distant possibility:
1) Review important documents and records. A legal audit of your business documentation is a good way to go. The following documentation should be subject to review:
a. Administrative documents: project plans, management reports, RFPs, SLAs, vendor and maintenance contracts, emails, etc.
b. Plan documents: planning documents for business continuity, disaster recovery, emergency management, incident response, contingency, etc.
c. Business continuity reports: business impact analysis reports, risk assessment documents, internal and external audit reports, supply chain reports, etc.
d. Team documents: emergency response team rosters, list of personnel with authorized access to certain sites or systems, and other team management and assignment documents
e. Specialized documents: awareness materials, training program materials, network and data center diagrams, alternate office location details, work area recovery site details, etc. Depending on your industry, specialized documentation might include materials that are subject to safekeeping and retention requirements, especially in regulated industries like healthcare, pharmaceutical, finance, legal, and education.
f. HR documents: personnel files (active and inactive employee files), candidate documentation, benefits and payroll information, complaints and action records, etc.
g. AR/AP documents: invoices, POs, balance sheets, cash flow analysis, loan and credit docs, financing information, expenses, payables and receivables, transaction records, utility bills, etc.
h. Historic documents: business formation files, articles of incorporation, control documents, reorganization and restructuring information, blueprints and other early stage planning documents, etc.
2) Be sure that you have secure, redundant storage and ease of retrieval:
a. Primary storage
b. Backup storage
c. Desktop systems
d. Laptops and mobile devices
e. Collaboration systems, such as SharePoint
f. Cloud storage
g. Remote data centers
3) Access and control of document management systems should be permission-based to authorized users. You wouldn’t want any files to get corrupted or go missing.
4) Scan important hard-copy documents such as system contracts, SLAs, warranties, and maintenance agreements into PDF format. Ensure that the originals are stored in secure, environmentally safe, and fireproof locations. Notify the new leadership of this information, and store primary copies on-site for ease of access (after making sure they’ve been backed up to a secure, off-site location).
5) Review or create a document management policy, which should specify the files and documents that must be stored, how and where they should be stored, how and when they are updated and when backups must occur, and when they can be disposed of (if ever). The policy should also identify rules for document retrieval, version control rules, document approvals, document distribution, archival time frames, and rules for secure destruction.
6) Document management controls should be part of BCMS (business control management system) audit activities, at least annually, and should be regularly updated.
7) Disaster recovery procedures, mock scenarios, and team document retrieval exercises should all be part of making sure your systems are airtight for the next generation.
8) Make a priority list of critical documents (enlist the help of multiple department heads), emergency contact lists, and other information that might need to be quickly accessed in a crisis situation. Knowing that you’re able to effectively manage response and recovery efforts will go a long way toward making sure your business is ready to change hands.
9) Have an emergency toolkit which contains hard copies of relevant documents as well as digital versions on thumb drives or other convenient external storage devices.
10) Record and date your efforts and the outcome of your mock exercises, adapting the plans if weak areas are identified. This information will be critical to the next generation of leadership and will help them plan the seamless continuity of what you’ve started, ensuring that your security efforts don’t go to waste.
*Source: Paul Kirvan, Secretary of US Chapter of Business Continuity Institute. TechTarget Search Disaster Recovery article, Optimizing Document Management Systems for Business Continuity.
Be sure to also take a look at ARMA’s Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles, and look for a trusted records management partner if you don’t already have one. Their expertise will span multiple industries and provide invaluable advice to let you know if your business is ready for a transition of ownership.