Discovering Your Ideal Successor

Do you know who will take over your construction company when you retire? If not, it’s time to begin thinking about your company’s succession plan. This plan is more than a vague idea of who will take over when you’re ready to step down—it’s a plan that ensures your company can continue without interruption if you or any of your top managers were to unexpectedly leave the business or have to take an extended leave of absence.

One of the key points of any succession plan is determining who will be the successors. If you don’t select the right people to move into key positions, you may find that you’re worse off than you’d be if that position was left empty. You don’t want your legacy to be left in the wrong hands. To avoid that, here are some key points that will help you identify the perfect successor.
Create Objective Criteria
What experience, skills, and knowledge will your successor have? If you don’t have a list of objective criteria, it can be very difficult to identify candidates and determine which of these candidates is at the forefront. You also need to make certain potential successors are interested in moving up in the company. Some people may seem like the perfect successor, but if they have no true interest in the job, they’re not going to be a good fit. Others may have the interest, but are missing key skills or abilities. 
By looking at potential successors and matching them against a list of objective criteria, you can determine who is a viable candidate and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Don’t expect to find the perfect successor who has everything needed to take over right now—chances are, these people are already looking to move up now, not when someone retires. They may not stay with your company for long because they’re already qualified for management positions and will be looking for them.
Consider Bringing in a Neutral Third Party
If you find it difficult to determine who would make a good successor or do not want your personal feelings and thoughts to influence the decision, consider bringing in an outside consultant or mentor. They can look objectively at your employees’ resumes and skills in order to determine who may make a great successor and who may not. If you use their information in combination with the thoughts of your management team, you’ll be able to determine who both has the skills needed and is a good fit with your company’s culture and values.
Note that you do want to be certain the successors you select have the right vision and attitude, not just the skills and knowledge needed to lead the company. For example, even if an employee is very knowledgeable, if they constantly seem to have discipline issues or are at the heart of workplace drama, they may not be the best fit for a leadership position.
By holding up potential candidates to a list of objective criteria, you’ll be able to see where strong candidates need a little more training or experience to become successors. In fact, chances are all of your candidates will need improvements in some areas. Knowing who is in need of what training means you can begin preparing these individuals to take over now, giving you plenty of time to help them develop the skills they need.
It’s important to find a good balance here. You want to be sure you start preparing your successors, but you also want to be sure they continue to have the time needed to do their jobs. Start out slow—send them to a few conferences or seminars. Talk to them about taking on an extra task or two here and there. As you or one of your management team gets closer to retirement, the successor for that position can begin shadowing them and sitting in on meetings. 
If the unexpected does happen and a top management employee leaves, their successor may not have all the skills and knowledge needed to immediately step into the role, but they will be better prepared than they would have been otherwise. 
Have Backup Successors
What do you do if a successor leaves the company? It can be difficult if you’ve already committed resources and time to preparing them to move up, but the reality is that people are going to leave your company if they find a better position elsewhere. This is why you should keep your list of potential successors and update it regularly. Go back to that list and re-evaluate those candidates along with any new employees who have come in, select a new successor, and begin preparing them. 
You may even want to offer some training to everyone on your successor list. It’s never a bad thing to have more employees with specific skills and knowledge. Providing training like this is also likely to improve employee job satisfaction and retention because they will appreciate the investment in their education and future.
These tips will help you determine which employees are likely to be your best successors. Once you have determined who they are, you can begin preparing them for leadership roles in the coming years.