How to Build a Team That Doesn’t Need You

A three-step plan for preparing your people for transition.

As you build an exit strategy for your small business, you’ll get advice from accountants, lawyers and other professionals. But it’s also important to remember the people you’ll be leaving behind: your staff.

As a great boss, you want to make sure your workers are left in a solid position. Plus, a good part of your company’s value rests in your employees’ skills, knowledge and relationships. Potential buyers will want to know that you have built a team that can survive without you.

It’s time to think bigger about how you’ll make your exit. Start by answering these
three questions:

» Is your business model prepared for a changing workforce?

» Has your management team been empowered to step up?

» How will employees react to the culture shift?

Don’t wait until you’re ready to transition out of your business. Start building a team that can take the reins and lead in your absence.

Adopt a Multigenerational Business Model

The average workforce includes a multigenerational talent pool. This is a great thing because each age group can bring something valuable to the mix. More seasoned employees offer experience. Younger employees represent your company’s future.

Understand how your business model appeals to each group. Review current recruiting and staffing policies to meet the needs of your diverse workforce. Know what the different groups value in terms of job satisfaction, from compensation and benefits to flexibility and promotions.

For example, as transient Millennials enter the workforce and your recruitment pool, you can improve retention by targeting what’s important to them. Adjust your business model to include atypical job requirements such as a flexible work schedule or the ability to work from home. Studies show nearly half (48 percent) of Millennials find themselves gravitating toward atypical work.

Despite inevitable turnover, you can also adapt your business model to include a mentor program, which helps maximize the time you have with Millennials. This sparks a two-way flow of innovation between mentor and mentee while contributing to the larger body of knowledge in your company.

Empower Managers to Step Up

The most successful companies allow senior leadership to have significant accountability in the company’s success.

Don’t be afraid to delegate! Equip department managers with the tools to essentially run their own business. They should be able to manage financials, develop a business plan and oversee staff in their own department. Meet with this team weekly or monthly to ensure each department is on track in accomplishing the goals you’ve set.

As you observe this process, you’ll begin to identify key managers who can “hunt, farm and sell”—exhibiting the traits your business needs to thrive without you.

Prepare for the Ownership Shift

When a company changes ownership, sometimes employees will begin to look at their job options (including hopping over to your competitors) because they aren’t sure what the new leadership will be like.

Employees will be less concerned regarding your departure when you’re honest, direct and empathetic during the discussions. Hopefully, by this third step, you’ve already put the senior leadership team in place to make it easier for employees to navigate through the transition as day-to-day business operations continue to run smoothly.

Don’t be discouraged if turnover is an ongoing struggle for your company, because it’s a serious challenge many companies face. It’s important to address, though, because employee retention can affect customer retention. Clients who suspect instability from your business may start eyeing your competitors.

One solution: Avoid putting customer service tasks in a silo, and enable your managers to establish meaningful relationships with clients. Implement a communication channel that establishes your senior leadership team and account executives as points-of-contact, instead of one individual. Clients will feel less impact upon your departure knowing a complete, competent team is managing their needs.

These three steps are critical to building an effective team that can lead without you. Putting these tools in place now can also help boost your bottom line and employee morale. Peace of mind won’t be too far behind as you confidently leave your company in capable hands.