Skills gap often an issue in succession planning

Written on Mar 14, 2018

By Molly Ryan Kowaleski, content & community manager

MJClarkWhen M.J. Clark, M.A., APR, discusses succession planning with business owners, the one thing she wants them to remember is how important it is to start early.

“Starting seven to 10 years out is an important key,” she said. “You can’t just wait until three years and think that’s plenty of time. You really want to be thinking about it and planning for it. It’s an ongoing practice.”

“You’re really trying to set up the next group of leadership to be successful,” she said. “And it goes beyond all the internal things they need to know. They need to know the contacts you have that are resources for you and your business, professional organizations they might want to be involved in and all those external factors.” As a leadership consultant and executive coach, Clark helps business owners review the finer details and skill gaps before throwing a successor in to a new situation and role. Identifying potential successors is just an early step, as business owners must also ferret out those gaps so they can be addressed through training and development.

“In our one-on-one assessments, we try to figure out where those gaps are and how to help, especially with those soft skills,” she said. “Do you need more stress management? More emotional intelligence? Do you need to know how to better build the team? Are your management skills top-notch?”

She said her organization, Integrated Leadership Systems, has worked with executives and professionals across a wide range of industries, including accounting, engineering and manufacturing. A common gap across all those businesses is soft skills.

“We end up working a lot with people who are very analytical,” she said, “and they get a lot of training based on things they can hear and feel and touch, but the topics I cover are more about relationships, and I feel like they are craving this sort of training.”

Often, when she is mentoring someone through the succession process, she will advise putting together a framework for what they need to know and how much time their successor should spend in each department doing hands-on work to better understand how the entire system works. In technical communities, the hands-on approach is irreplaceable.

“I want CPAs to think about what would happen if they got taken out of the business, for some reason, tomorrow morning,” she said. “Are you set up in the short-term for someone to do what you do? And, if not, what can you put in place so that can happen, so your business will weather a short-term storm?”

Clark will discuss succession planning at OSCPA’s Cincinnati Spring CPE Conference on April 19. Attendees will receive tools and practical advice to begin thinking through these questions, as well as the question: What would happen in the long term?

“It’s ongoing,” Clark said. “What are you doing right now to make sure that knowledge transfer is happening? And making sure managers are well-trained so they have what they need to be successful?”

Spots at the Cincinnati Spring CPE Conference are filling up fast! Reserve your seat at this or one of our other Spring CPE Conferences (in Columbus or Northeast Ohio) today.

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