Most agency owners are aware of the compelling benefits of recruiting and developing senior successors, not least an efficient and well-compensated ‘exit’ post-sale. But actually achieving a smooth handover is very rare – as has been brought into sharp focus for me recently.
Two years ago, I was asked to reenergise a great but by then very tired business, Corporate Edge. That process is now complete, and last month I handed control to the person who until recently was my number two. For staff and clients, it makes perfect sense, and they have been kind enough to say so.
But I have been struck by people’s surprise that this handover is both amicable and planned. One client told us she had never had an outgoing and incoming agency leader attend a handover meeting together, let alone seen them smiling and laughing throughout. This is a rather depressing indictment of a sector that has everything to gain from getting succession planning right. To some extent, it’s a product of the domination of ‘player-managers’ in the agency world, those technicians whose egos have little regard for the turmoil through which they are about to force their staff. But mainly it’s because agency heads don’t plan. So how do you get it right?
There are three key factors: