Why Your Crisis Management Strategy MUST Include a Succession Plan

Jun 27, 2023Strategy

“Who here has a dedicated crisis plan in place for their business?”

I ask this question all the time as I travel throughout the US and Canada, speaking to business owners and executives. And I get the same response every time.

In a room full of smart, savvy, respected leaders, fewer than 25% raise their hands.

Next, I take the prompt one step further.

“What about succession planning?”

And hands drop.

I get it. No one wants to think about their own death—about what will happen if they don’t wake up tomorrow. It’s a dark topic but a critical one. Because not planning for your company’s future can cost your business and even your family hundreds of millions of dollars as everything you worked so hard for disappears.


You’re Never Too Young to Prioritize Crisis Management

Many years ago, my business partner in crisis planning was working with a young CEO who collapsed from a fatal heart attack as he was leaving a Boston Bruins game. Prior to his death, this talented entrepreneur had been negotiating a huge deal worth several hundreds of thousands of dollars. But because the man had neglected to include any of his executive team members in the negotiations, the deal was now at risk of falling through.

Fortunately, my partner was able to help the company recover portions of the deal, but its total value was never known and never achieved.

So don’t think about dying if you prefer. But do ask yourself:

If I drop the ball, is anyone on my team prepared and willing to pick it up and run in my place?

Family-owned businesses often fare better in a succession crisis than larger companies that lack multiple generations with the insight and experience to take over. A bigger business’s board of directors can appoint a new CEO, but rarely have they identified that individual ahead of time.


An Exercise in Succession Planning

The particulars of succession planning sound fatalistic, but every detail is important. Some CEOs even resort to nervous laughter to avoid facing the reality of our mutually assured mortality when I make recommendations like:

Don’t book your entire executive team onto the same flight or drive them all in the same limo!

But someone must be around to run the company—and to run it the way you would have wanted.

If you have a personal will but haven’t arranged the disposition of your company, there may not be anything left to care for your family.

It’s not enough to hold a loose succession plan in your head. You need to work with lawyers and financial planners who can precisely define what should happen with your business after you’re gone.


Communications strategies that keep your plan current

I recently heard someone speak about his company’s commitment to diligent note-taking during business meetings. Even seemingly insignificant details were documented to ensure nothing was ever lost or overlooked.

A similar approach is a wise addition to your crisis management strategy, particularly where succession planning is concerned. Along with the legal documents you’ve prepared with attorneys and financial advisors, up-to-date documentation will help empower your successors to execute your wishes promptly and effectively.


Crisis planning is never “one and done”

The crisis management plan you create today won’t last as long as you hope to live. Business goals shift, team structures change, and before you know it, your carefully crafted plan is completely moot.


Secure Your Legacy with Smart Succession Planning

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I regularly speak to CEOs with multi-million and multi-billion dollar companies—tremendously successful businesses—who don’t have a single succession wish documented.

If this is you—if you know what you need to do but you haven’t done it yet—the time is NOW.

I know it’s tough to stay on top of all the “must dos” of this day and age, but if you care about your company, your employees, and your family…crisis management and succession planning are not optional.

Nothing jeopardizes your hard-earned legacy like failing to adequately plan for the future.

So talk to your attorneys. Reach out to your financial advisors. Intentionally carve out time to protect and preserve everything you fought to achieve.

None of us will live forever. But we can leave legacies that do.

With the right preparation, your success can succeed you! Get in touch to learn more.