8 Questions To Consider When Choosing a Business Successor

Our last blog post provided a few helpful tips on eliminating the drama from your business succession journey. However, before you reach the point where your choice of successor can make waves in and around your business, you need to choose someone! So here are eight questions to consider at the start of your journey to give you the utmost confidence in your choice. 

  1. Who is the first name that comes to mind? The first step in this process is a pure gut check. Asking this question will give you a chance to check in with yourself to see if there is a particular person that draws your attention. Once you have that name in mind, you can use the rest of these questions as a tool to examine if this person really is suitable for the job. 

2. Where is the business going? While none of us can predict the future, a prudent business owner has a plan for where they would like to see their business go and a general idea of some of the significant challenges that may be on the horizon. Who has the skills, temperament, and vision to handle the tasks at hand? 

3. Do you trust this person with your customers? If you have a loyal customer base used to dealing with you personally, you’ll need to take their comfort in mind if you want to keep their business. Adding a relationship-focused sales executive to your management team well in advance of your exit could help to create a smoother transition. Conversely, a successor with a vastly different style or demeanor could make for a jarring transition.

4. What’s the most essential core competency required for your specific line of business? Which candidate on your list best embodies it? For example, do you need an accounting whizz, a great negotiator, or just someone who has a terrific rapport with your clients? 

5. How do your other employees respond to this person? Will they command respect or inspire a mass exodus of valued contributors? 

6. What authority are you comfortable giving this candidate? This is a trust exercise. Make a list of your responsibilities. If this person was in charge of them, would you feel comfortable stepping away? 

7. What values do you share with this person? In business relationships, shared values are at least as necessary as skillsets. Is your potential successor equipped to make choices that align with the ethics and values on which you’ve built your business? 

8. Am I choosing this person based on the needs of the business or my personal relationships? This may be the most challenging question to answer objectively. Suppose you are torn between two loyal employees or have always dreamed of leaving your business to your children. In that case, it may help bring in an outside opinion from a trusted adviser to help evaluate their suitability. This is a situation that requires a clear head but also some input from your heart. 

Choosing a successor for the business you’ve invested so much of your time, work, and passion into takes some serious soul-searching. But with the right tools, you can plan a transition that sets everybody up for success. 



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