Written by Robert Johnson, Partner
The recent Coronation of King Charles III has got me thinking about how the Royal Family and wider household can provide us lessons in succession planning and preparation.
Start with your end goal
Queen Elizabeth always knew that her end game was her son Charles taking over the reins. She clearly understood that she would be ‘passing the business on’ to a family member. However, the Queen also considered the manner of that passing and much of that was around creating a legacy that would continue to last into future generations.
As a business founder, your ultimate objective may be the sale of your business or to pass on your life’s work to family members. Understanding your strategic objectives is the key, whether they are financial, personal or the creation of a legacy.
The Royal Household had 70 years to plan for the Queens succession and whilst business leaders might not have that long, planning early is key to any successful succession plan.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a defined plan and the continual evolution of it. Meticulous planning within the royal household has avoided significant disruption. Having a plan in place well in advance will ensure a smooth transition whether your exit is planned or due to unexpected events.
Choosing your successor
The Queen had a clear successor from the day that Charles was born, and she coached and mentored him throughout the years in readiness for him taking the reins. However, there has always been a plan in place for alternative successors, by building their day-to-day roles and mentoring other senior royals and allowing them to take a lead role if needed.
If an investor is looking to acquire your business, the key question for them is who will run the business when the founder leaves? There needs to be a clear plan and the right people to continue to run the business and deliver the strategy they are buying into.
Throughout the lifecycle of your business, you should always strive to understand who your successor may be. That person may change over time as your business grows and develops or as people join and leave the business.
You should create a clear path for leadership progression, identify potential successors and help to coach and mentor them. Having a successor in the wings, will not only minimise business risk if the worst should happen but clearly will add value – its good business sense!
Whilst the Queen never totally stepped back there was evidence of her allowing the younger generations of Royals to take on more of a key role.
As a founder, it is wise to begin to step back from the business as part of your succession planning. Reducing dependency on yourself by allowing an MD or CEO to run the business, whilst you migrate to perhaps being Chairman will enable you to get real comfort on the suitability of a successor as well as shortening the handover period when you finally retire or leave the business.
Sharing strategic vision
It was often reported that King Charles had very clear ideas on the modernisation of the monarchy during the Queens reign and they didn’t always agree! However, over the years they worked together to find a clear route for the modernisation of the Royal Family and the Monarchy.
It is good practice in any business to have a strategic vision and be clear on the direction you want the business to take in the longer term. If you are staying around for a period of transition, it is important that your successor shares that vision, is involved with the decision-making process and have true ownership of that direction. If you are leaving the business entirely then you must reconcile yourself with the fact that it may not be your vision going forward.
Investors will be not only looking at your business today, but its future prospects. When growing and scaling your business, one of the most important decisions you make is about that strategic vision which must be owned by the business leader.
The royal household understand the value of trusted advisers, with their wealth of courtiers and experienced hands who are a source of information and advice to the King and Royal Family.
Whilst you don’t necessarily need a team as big as the Royals, getting independent support throughout the process of succession planning, can not only make the whole transition easier but will undoubtedly help you to achieve your goals.
The thing we can learn the most from the succession of the Monarchy is to plan, plan, plan. Business founders should not leave it to the last minute to find, prepare and communicate with their successors.
Through careful planning, your business will be prepared for any unexpected events, you will enhance the value of your business when you decide the time to leave; reduce risk and protect your legacy for the next gene