What next? It’s the question at the heart of any business. Following Justin King’s announcement that he was stepping down as Sainsbury’s CEO after a decade that has seen sales increase by 60%, all attention turned to who would succeed King, and what the change would mean for the 145-year-old company.
As Mike Coupe assumes his role as King’s successor, he will be faced with opportunities and challenges. However, his appointment was widely expected, having worked closely with King on Sainsbury’s strategy over the past decade.
Within large companies, succession planning is regularly, systematically addressed. But it’s not just large corporates that need to think about succession planning. In a smaller business, success often relies on the individual skills and abilities of each member of staff, meaning coping with staff turnover - which is high in retail - needs to be a central part of any business strategy.
When thinking of how to develop a succession plan, it’s important to identify the key roles and skills at every level of your business. Whether it’s a case of training current employees or identifying the type of person you’d want to recruit externally, taking time to consider successors ensures that your business will not just survive but thrive as your workforce evolves.
In a small organisation, it can sometimes be a challenge to see how you can develop promising members of staff. While large organisations can second employees to different teams, in a small business this is not often possible. However, identifying opportunities for staff to train outside of your organisation, perhaps with a loyal customer, can develop staff, improve motivation and strengthen business relationships.
As your workforce changes, it can be hard to ensure the character of your company stays consistent. While big companies often have a formalised set of values, in an SME they may be based on “gut feelings”. By articulating these values and making them a key part of your succession plan, you can ensure the spirit of your business is kept alive.
Jill Miller is research adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development