Matter & Substance
  December 2, 2015

The Importance of Succession Planning

I recently received a startling and cryptic note indicating that one of my doctors was going to be out of the office for a few months. Because the details provided were scarce, I did not know what to make of the correspondence, and could only hope that nothing bad was happening to him.

Like most people, my first instinct upon receiving this communication was to wonder how this situations was going to affect me and my healthcare. These concerns might have been put at ease had the note been a little more clear about how things were going to be handled in my primary doctor's absence.

Many businesses make succession planning a priority - internal succession, future sale to employees of third parties, and other strategies. The succession plan often involves complex considerations such as the ability and interests of stakeholders, family dynamics, financial and legal aspects, market studies, and assessment of business risk. There are a few key aspects to consider in establishing your succession plan.


As demonstrated in the situation I encountered with my doctor, communication is crucial to proper succession planning. It is very important to clearly communicate the transition plan and efforts to keep things running smoothly. Otherwise, there can be a negative reaction to the uncertainty, which could hurt the operations and value of the business.

Contingency plans

Another aspect that should be included in the succession planning process is to consider what would happen if there was a sudden change in circumstances for the entrepreneur founder or a key employee. In those situations, the business may not be prepared for the extended absence of the leader and driving force behind the business. This can result in confusion and uncertainty among customers, employees, suppliers, and lenders. It is important to have some contingency plans in place in order to keep things running smoothly.

Company Governance

Company governance is also key in succession planning. It is helpful to have a clear understanding of who is in charge and how decisions are made. Many companies will have a key employee manage the day to day operations with regular reporting to ownership. In some cases, it will be necessary to hire a new chief executive, but the recruitment and onboarding process will take time. The show must go on in the meantime, so it is important to consider these transitional steps.

On another note, there should not be much concern in the event that something happens to me. We have spent the last 19 years developing a superb organization at Mowery & Schoenfeld. We have a team of 55 people and partners who can handle everything. Our clients and other stakeholders will be in very good hands if I decide to take a few months off for that trip around the world.