Succession Planning: A Smart Process For Small Business Owners

Talent is at the heart of every great business, pushing toward common goals and helping to achieve shared success. It goes without saying that all departments in a small business are critical to delivering results and meeting customer needs.

Skilled, engaged and dedicated workers are vital but increasingly difficult to come by. When a small-business owner loses an employee due to a job change or retirement, this change has the potential to affect countless aspects of the company’s day-to-day operations.

June Howard, Aflac Senior Vice President of Financial Services and Chief Accounting Officer believes to avoid breaks in continuity and to ensure vital functions stay on track through staff changes, small-business owners need to prepare for the unexpected by having a succession plan in place.

Howard believes planning ahead is more than ensuring resources will be available when they are needed; it’s also a way to engage employees and develop talent as part of a comprehensive benefits package for employees in both the short and long term.

Develop talent and empower your team: Many small businesses employ a wealth of talent, but the truth is that not every person is ready to move into that next position. For a smooth transition, talent must be nurtured and employees must be trained before they can take on new responsibilities.

To ensure team members are ready to address the challenges of a future position, small-business owners can leverage local industry peers, seminars or courses to help employees prepare for new duties, enabling them to cultivate the skills they will need as they rise through the business. Not only will this benefit the team, it contributes toward an immediate boost in capabilities and employee morale. In a competitive talent market, workers are seeking employers that are invested in them and view their growth as a win for the business as a whole. By the same token, encouraging employees to exceed their own expectations and work toward leadership roles can foster a culture of ongoing growth, while motivating them to excel and achieve business goals as well as personal goals.

Developing a team that is ready for that next move and empowering talent are not only critical to a small business’s success, but are also means for growth and innovation.

Plan ahead for long-term success: Whether employees retire, leave the company or change roles, operations will need to continue as usual. To help make this transition smoother, small-business owners should consider individual team members’ unique skills and backgrounds to ensure they compensate for lost abilities in the position that needs to be filled. 

In addition, a succession plan should evolve over time into a proactive strategy for growth, not only serve as a reactive response to a business’s needs. Small-business owners need to prepare now for the opportunities and challenges they may face down the road, thinking beyond the next round of annual reviews and performance evaluations.

Anticipate what’s next: Having a steady plan in place for the future of its employees ensures that a small business can maintain stability. Succession planning gives small-business owners the ability to pivot and support business needs at a time when teams must tackle new challenges or have new leadership joining them.  Especially in the case of small businesses, the business’s future needs should be considered for each hiring opportunity.  Potential employees who have a variety of skills and experiences are especially attractive because they provide the small business with the multiple succession planning options.

June Howard, CPA, CFA, CGMA is senior vice president of financial services and chief accounting officer for Aflac Inc. She is responsible for consolidated accounting and financial reporting, strategic sourcing and procurement and more.