In my previous article I spoke about delegation and the importance of having internal succession plans in place. In today’s article I wanted to quickly expand upon succession plans and the importance of always training your replacement.
It has been my experience that having a succession plan in place is a key factor missing amongst many companies. However, there is no greater value for internal structure. A strong, well defined, succession plan allows your internal team to clearly see the path to career advancement. It allows everyone to know what is required, and what needs to be accomplished in order to move up the company ladder. Furthermore, it allows team members to transition from one position to another, rather than being thrown into the pool and left to sink or swim with little to no training.
While there are many internal benefits to having a well defined succession plan, the largest benefit is with the customer experience. In many companies account managers are left in charge of an account with no backup. This requires them to be on-call 24 x 7; I even heard a story about one account manager that was taking calls on his wedding day! Eventually they will burn out and you will lose them. Meanwhile the customer still has needs and you are scrambling trying to fit someone into an account manager’s position with no training for that account. This causes stress on the customer’s side as well as adding to your daily anxiety. By having a well defined succession plan and having multiple people cross-trained with each position, you take the pressure off the single account manager, allowing them to reboot and take needed time off. This will avoid the burn out stage and hopefully keep them happy in their position and more productive. However, if an account manager does decide to leave for another reason, you will be in a good position to continue the same level of service and the entire transition will be invisible to your customer.
I am not going to get into specifics on how to build a succession plan, there is plenty enough information on the web if you are so inclined. However, hopefully this article has expressed the importance of building and implementing such a plan. If you do not have a plan in place and you are not currently cross-training your managers, you will eventually find yourself in a very difficult position and franticaly searching for a replacement, at which point you will remember this article. While it takes months, even years sometimes, to win a new customer, it only takes seconds to lose them. So take the time now and prepare a succession plan for your business. You will be in a much better place structurally, your customers can continue to receive the same level of service they have come to love and your team will be much happier and more productive.