Exit strategies: Selecting an internal successor

In order to avoid a drawn out sale process and to preserve the workforce and ethos of their business, many retiring business owners opt to look internally when seeking to find a successor, aiming for a smoother transition that disrupts the business as little as possible.

Choosing an internal successor often means the compensation arrangement will stretch over a few years, tied to the company's future performance. This approach not only secures a financial return but can also contribute to the enduring success of the business you deeply care about. Therefore, selecting the right person to take over is of utmost importance.

Some business owners plan ahead, dedicating years to prepare a chosen individual for future leadership, while others may only start considering options as retirement approaches. When the time comes to choose a successor, whether for a transition in the distant future or soon, several critical factors should guide your decision. Here are five essential considerations.

Identify Potential Candidates
Begin by compiling a comprehensive list of internal candidates who could potentially step into the leadership role. At this early stage, focus on listing all possible candidates with a brief overview of their attributes, without necessarily delving into detailed evaluations.

Future Challenges of the Business
Understanding the future challenges your business may face is critical in choosing the right successor. Consider the major technological, social trends and market changes that could influence your sector over the years ahead. This foresight will clarify the qualities and skills that it will be beneficial for your successor to possess.

Selecting the Best Fit for Future Challenges
Avoid falling into the trap of selecting someone who resembles you or letting personal feelings cloud your judgement. The key is to assess which candidates are best equipped to take the business into the future and lead it to further growth. This step helps refine your list to those most capable of steering the company towards sustained success.

Evaluate Your Candidates
With a shortlist in hand, it's time to test the mettle of your potential successors. Assign them more significant challenges and responsibilities to gauge their readiness and ability to lead the company forward. Their performance in these tasks will illuminate the most suitable candidate.

Prepare Your Successor
After choosing a successor, the next step is thorough preparation. Despite their experience within the company, there might be aspects of the business they're unfamiliar with. Share critical information and responsibilities with them to ensure a smooth transition. In the months leading up to your retirement, work closely with your successor to fully acquaint them with their future role, ensuring a seamless changeover and a comfortable retirement for you.