The first story comes from my own communicator’s organization. When I was regional director over 10 states, the Albuquerque Chapter folded because the chapter had not done any succession planning. Zilch. There were a few committed members running the chapter, but they eventually experienced burnout to the nth degree and just could not continue operating the chapter. To my heartache, the largest city in New Mexico could not support a chapter, when chapters much smaller (College Station, Oklahoma City and even Tucson) survived quite well. Why did these smaller chapters survive? They planned for the future.
Second story: I was at one of the major accounting association conferences attending a session about firm growth. In front of the entire room of about 30 other managing partners and directors, one managing partner of a Top 100 firm said his firm did not have a succession plan in place and, to the sounds of my audible gasp, he said he really didn’t see the need for one.
I, the upstart I was, called him out on this. I said, “Why don’t you see the need for one?” His reply: “Everything is fine as it is; no need to address it at this time.”
It wasn’t fine, actually, and the firm did experience some frustration a few years later when it had to do damage control.
Beginning the process is the hardest part, so here are three recommendations:
1. Commit to succession planning and set a timeline for completing the plan. It can’t be done overnight; a plan must be thoroughly thought-out and vetted by all decision makers. Some firms use their retreats to create plans, which leads to the second point.
2. Review the plan no less than annually. In just a short time, you’ll have changes in the firm that will cause you to change the plan. If you do not address these, it will be outdated and unusable should the time come for needing the plan to kick in.
3. Ask for input from all staff. This is a great way to create an inclusive environment — demonstrating the firm truly cares about the long-term well-being of its talent. I guarantee that when you ask for input, you will receive valuable feedback that usually alters the plan’s original vision. That’s a good thing.
If you don’t plan for the future, you will not survive. So get started, now. Your future depends on it.
Scott H. Cytron, ABC, is president of Cytron and Company, known for helping companies and organizations improve their bottom line through strategic public relations, communications, marketing programs and top-notch client service. An accredited consultant, Scott works with companies, organizations and individuals in professional services (medical, legal, accounting, engineering), high-tech and B2B/B2C product/service sales. Scott is author of CPA Practice Advisor’s MarketingWorks column and blogs for CPATechViews.com. He can be contacted at email@example.com.