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Want a strong succession plan? Build leadership from within now

March 29, 2018

 By Bill Kimble

Starting and operating a business in today’s fast-paced marketplace is challenging for the owner. It’s tough to find enough time for sales, project management, production, billings, collections and client maintenance. The good news is there are several outside resources or eager small businesses that can assist with these key tasks, and they often are more skilled at the task than the business owner. Additionally, as a business grows, it will need to hire more staff to help accomplish the ever-increasing list of tasks.

Not so fast though…let’s back up a little. Even before you hire more staff to join your company, I suggest that you, as the owner, answer what I believe to be the two most essential questions impacting the long-term future of most businesses:

  1. Do you desire that your business outlive you?
  2. Do you see your business transitioning to someone from within (a future generation of ownership; not necessarily a child or relative)?

Most owners at the end of their careers want to leverage what they have invested so much in and would like to see their business continue to flourish.

From my 25-plus years of business experience, I have found there is a strong correlation between attracting and retaining quality talent and a strong business succession plan. Therefore, thinking about building leadership from within now can ensure your business is set up for future success.

At C2AE, the leadership creates and periodically updates a succession plan that outlines the transition of the firm financially and professionally (technically). From this plan, employee supervisors craft tailored development plans with input from each of their assigned staff that ultimately aligns with the overall company plan.

Entry-level staff that we hire are most interested in how our company will support them as they develop the necessary skill sets to be successful in their current assigned role and what career paths we may have lined up for their advancement. Over time the retainage of the personnel that excel and become pivotal to the success of the company also become a notable factor in fulfilling our succession plan.

C2AE created Technical Leaders in core areas of its business—mechanical engineering as an example—that are tasked with developing entry-level staff and staff that we desire to cross-train. The most effective way to achieve this is through mentoring and coaching on projects, where real world experience is gained.

Additionally, establishing standards and best practices for people to follow greatly enhances how new staff are integrated into the firm.

When you boil it down, the next generation of leadership wants to increase their value, responsibility and authority within the company. And the most effective ways to achieve this for both the employee and the company are to have the staff lead a key area and provide ownership opportunities.

Our management team is comprised of four individuals that are collectively responsible to successfully operate the business, but each member focuses in particular areas of strength. The team members receive performance feedback and continue to read, share experiences and work with outside specialists to learn and develop. Here is a quick snap-shot of how it works for our Leadership Team members:

  • Oversight of company finance and our business support staff
  • Operational oversight of our Infrastructure Group staff and project managers
  • Operational oversight of our Buildings Group staff and project managers
  • Leader of branding, business development, sales and marketing staff

There are multiple growth opportunities for staff at all levels within our firm. A few examples include a design engineer advancing to a lead designer who then mentors other staff, or an architect advancing to become a project manager, overseeing multiple projects.

Whether you have one employee or fifty, I believe these best practices should be implemented to set your business up for lasting success.

Bill Kimble has been with C2AE, an Architecture and Engineering firm, for over 25 years and is the Infrastructure Group Leader and Leadership Team Member where he oversees and coordinates the operations to ensure that C2AE provides quality services to our valued clients in the Government, Healthcare, Education, and Industrial market sectors.

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