First things First: Succession Planning, Strategic Business Planning

Mary is successful, energetic, in her 60's, and the Managing Partner of Smith & Smith, a highly respected professional practice firm. Realizing that succession planning is a critical component of effective leadership, she met on several occasions with her lawyer and accountant to discuss the legal, tax, and other technical options for the ultimate disposition of Smith & Smith when Mary leaves the firm. Despite fully understanding these options, Mary was puzzled by her inability to make any progress in implementing a succession plan. Why was she failing to get any traction on this important issue?

Initially, Mary engaged me to work with her to design a succession plan and the steps needed to implement it. In discussion, it became clear these objectives were premature, in that Mary needed first to address several existing management and staffing issues. My detailed interviews with key employees revealed four major issues: Mary was not adequately developing the next level of leadership, there were significant inefficiencies in Smith & Smith's internal systems, several personnel changes were required, and Mary was not mentoring or encouraging others in actively marketing Smith & Smith and its services. I then facilitated a senior management retreat at which the group articulated a shared corporate vision, committed to making personnel and systems changes, and discussed succession planning.

Results to date include the following: Mary has made one of her colleagues a partner in the firm, and is introducing that individual to her client base, necessary personnel changes have been made, the firm is poised to improve financial performance, and internal systems have been improved resulting in cost savings through increased efficiency. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the firm is gradually implementing a succession plan in which Mary can ultimately retire, ownership will be passed to others within the firm, the transition will be seamless for customers, and this successful firm will continue into the future.     [back to case studies]