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Longview: Do You Really Have to Think About This? (Yes)

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As the owner or principal of a thriving sign or commercial graphics business, your central concern is to make sure that the business is running smoothly, is making money, and that your employees are competent and professional. Doing that is guaranteed to take up most, if not all of your time.

Accomplishing that also entails preparing for the future of the business-exploring new growth opportunities, making capital investment decisions, bringing on new personnel and much more. But what about the future beyond that? What are your plans for your business when you decide to retire, or-heaven forbid-when you die?

But most people don’t want look that far ahead. Death? Who wants to think about that? And what about the retirement or passing of your key leadership employees? The point is that you should be ready for these contingencies by having and implementing a plan of succession for your business. Business succession planning is a series of logistical and financial decisions about who will take over your business upon retirement, death or disability. To write a succession plan, the first step is to identify the ideal successor to take over the business. Pretty straight-forward, right?

Unfortunately, however, research tells us that only a small fraction (about 10 percent) of small and medium-size businesses owners have a formal, written succession plan in place-though some do have an informal, unwritten plan. But more than half of business owners in this group do not have any succession plan at all. They obviously don’t want to think about this now-though they should.

The basic process goes something like this: from among your staff identify a likely successor with the potential to handle the position, make a formal training plan for that person, create a timetable for the training, prepare yourself for retirement, and then install your successor.

A succession plan helps to both ensure that those who come after you have fewer problems adjusting and makes it more likely that the business will continue to run smoothly when you’re gone. It also helps prevent infighting and confusion. The plan should be clearly written and updated regularly. A good plan should also be developed for all essential leadership positions within the company.

For many family and small businesses, succession planning is one of the toughest and most critical challenges they face. Yet succession planning is also a great opportunity to maximize opportunities and create a multi-generational business that embodies your company’s philosophy and mission for years to come. I think that’s worth the effort, don’t you?

Okay, back to work.

Ken Mergentime

Ken Mergentime is the former executive editor of Sign & Digital Graphics and WRAPS magazines.

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