The Business Transition Blog

Succession Strategies for a Pandemic

The scientists predictions were right. In 2009 I wrote this (now abbreviated) excerpt from my book, The Business Transition Crisis – Plan Your Succession Now and Beat the Biggest Business Selloff in History. If you heeded it, congratulations. If not, it might not be too late.

The world is preparing for a pandemic. Worst-case scenarios predicted by health organizations would indicate that 50 percent of employees could be off work at any given time either from the illness itself or from fear of catching it.

What plans do you have in place to keep your business running in this event or some other calamity? This situation shows the ongoing and vital need for cross training and preparation for sudden, unexpected, and unpredictable events. But a pending pandemic isn’t the only reason for succession planning. Every position in your company should have back-up so you can continue to operate despite any setback – illness, natural disaster or a strike.

You’ll be better prepared by having documented systems in place so that others could step in and follow directions. But still, how well would your business run if you suddenly lost half of your people?

And it’s not just a pandemic. What would happen if your competitor recruited a key manager? What would it cost you to replace her? Who is groomed to take her place? You might avoid this very costly and disruptive situation by planning regular, open, respectful communications with your managers. Striving to become an employer of choice will not only help you attract top talent, it will help you keep the talent you already have.

What if a senior manager had a heart attack and died? Consider the cost of replacing a key person especially at the most inopportune time, such as the month before tax deadlines or in the midst of important negotiations with a major supplier. Are others in the department capable of carrying on the essential activities and getting the required results? Do you have life and disability insurance to offset the costs of losing your key people?

Who could replace you? What if you get sick or die? What if you no longer find working in your own company to be invigorating or in your best long-term interests? Many companies that look like the walking wounded are the result of an owner who has lost hope, lacks confidence in the future, or has lost interest in continuing to run the business.

While you may have heard all this before, it is even more relevant and urgent in the current crisis. Expect the best, but prepare for the worst.