A few years down the line and your business is doing great. You’ve put in the hard work, weathered the sleepless nights, and bet your livelihood on the company’s success. But now, you’re looking for a new adventure – to do it all again, to build another chapter in your life, or to pursue work in another business. But your company means a lot to you, and you want to leave it in the right hands. And while it isn’t an easy task, there are few guidelines you can follow.
Characterise your ideal candidate
Ask yourself: If you were an employee at your company, what would you want your boss to be like? Consider what it takes to do your job, and what weaknesses the business can and cannot support. Get your employees to voice where they think your skills lie and where you could improve. Take these characteristics and criticisms and effectively build a profile of the person you think will best fit the job.
“The key is writing down all the productive qualities that you need to transfer to your successor in order for the vision to grow. Secondly, find someone who has the ability to use their own energy and resources to accomplish even more with the knowledge you are passing on. Lastly, make this a system where leaders in your organisation automatically start grooming others to replace them years before it is necessary,” says Jeffrey Manu, a Ghana-based entrepreneur and marketing strategist.
Finally, you grew your company with a vision. That vision, and the company’s ethics, should remain intact after your departure.
Emotional attachments should not be a deciding factor in appointing your successor. It probably isn’t a good idea to pass the reins to a family member or a long-time friend who isn’t as qualified as an outside candidate or existing employee. Your decision should be for the objective good of the business and your successor should have the qualities you outlined. If you want to keep the company in the family, train your chosen relative, without bias, like you would any other candidate – nepotism will breed resentment among your workforce, especially if they are being led by someone inept.
Pick a performer
Choose someone with a quantifiably good performance record from a previous business or job. While you might be able to see the qualities they possess that will prove a good match for the business, your employees may not. If the candidate comes with a proven track record, your staff will be more willing to follow and respect their new boss.
Construct an immersive interview
Now is the time to put the candidate to test. Place them in hypothetical work situations and business deals. Let them lead the business for a day; organise a social event where staff can meet them and give feedback; introduce them to clients to test rapport – put them through what you go through each and every day – and perhaps a little bit more. A climber always wants his rope to be stronger than it needs to be.
Take care with your timing
Allow yourself ample time to plan each step of the appointment process. Give your staff and clients enough notice of the transition and keep up communication. Don’t be hasty – your company wasn’t built in a day, so don’t decide its fate in one.
“Before looking for your successor, first have a very good idea as to what your business needs at that moment in time. Ask yourself: Is the business in a position now where somebody just needs to nurture what has already been created – or is the business in need of something that will confront every single process, every single offspring in that business and really come and shake things up? Or does it need some creativity – has the business been running the same way for the last five years? It has done well, it is not in a bad, it just needs a sort of reinvention, newness, or freshness. And I think once you decide what the best move for the business is you can then go and recruit, having a good idea as to what you need to look for in your successor,” says Quinton Douman, managing director of South Africa-based 212 Business Consulting.