The Best-laid Plans

Bringing Succession Plans to Life

John Coon

May 6, 2013

Flexibility has been a crucial element for local companies who have executed succession plans in recent years. The rise of social media has changed how business is done and it has forced companies to  reevaluate their needs and their direction on a yearly basis.

This changes everything about how a company is run, from training employees to communicating with customers. It also influences succession planning because companies need to ensure top executives are equipped to direct the business while adapting to digital-age changes.

“You’ve got to be open to new ideas,” Stephen Schubach says. “You’ve got to be open to the fact that this world changes really quick.”

Effective succession plans require finding a person who is 100 percent engaged in building a company. If their heart is not fully committed to doing the job, putting the company under their leadership could cause negative effects down the road.

That’s one reason Atkin says he embraced growing into his responsibilities as CEO at Goal Zero. It wasn’t just a matter of gaining the trust of his predecessor. It also mattered to him having enough time to find out if this was the direction he wanted to take.

“We believe we need 100 percent of someone’s heart to be successful and do what we need to do—especially from the top down,” Atkin says. “We’re all about empowering people and saying, ‘You can’t have a whole company if you don’t have whole individuals.’ So we need their whole heart.”

Open communication channels equal better preparation for potential challenges that lie ahead. Timing is everything in the business world and can be the dividing line between success and failure.

Carlin notes that any leadership team should have candid discussions about creating the right timeline for when to imple-ment a succession plan. Helping people transition to new roles means change will happen throughout the entire organization.

It can cause instability if the leadership team isn’t actively looking at all external and internal factors influencing the succession plan and discussing the best available options for those plans.

“You really want to make sure you’re betting on the right horse,” Carlin says. “While there’s nothing that is 100 percent certain, you want to be 90 percent certain this individual is going to succeed.” 


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