Practice Management

Introduce your successor and clarify new roles

By Leah Golob |

Change can be difficult, regardless of whether the perceived outcome is good or bad.

When you make plans to pass the baton to a successor, your office staff may experience stress. You can put your staff at ease, says Ray Adamson, chief customer officer at BlueSun Inc. in Burlington, Ont., by communicating exactly how the transition process will unfold, and what they can expect.

"There are a number of steps that have to be handled, Adamson says. "Succession is not just a monetary transaction — it's a changing of the guard."

Here are three steps you can take to ease any anxiety your staff may have about your transition process:

> Introduce your successor to the team


Before sealing the deal, introduce your potential successor to each staff member in a one-on-one setting, Adamson says.

The successor advisor can take that opportunity to learn about each team member's role, his or her history with the business and their intentions for the future.

The successor can diffuse concerns by providing a detailed outline of his or her vision for the business over the next twelve months. He or she can walk team members through any changes they can expect in the near future. Long-term plans can be hashed out later as the transition concludes, and the "new" business emerges.

> Clarify changing roles
Typically, the senior advisor sticks around during the transitional phase to manage some key relationships and act as a resource. But he or she is not there to manage staff at this stage, Adamson says.  

Challenges can occur in cases in which the departing advisor's new role hasn't been clearly communicated. For example, complications can arise if team members assume they now have two senior bosses, and they continuing to refer to the senior advisor for guidance.

As the departing advisor, you may need to clarify — and re-clarify — your successor's new role as the lead decision-maker.

> Create a client-communication strategy
There will be less disruption for the clients if the new advisor can easily integrate with the team, Adamson says. The staff, the exiting advisor and the successor must always present a united front to the clients.

Preparing a client-communication strategy is key, Adamson says, because existing clients will be curious about the transition. Your staff must be equipped to answer questions clients may have about the transition.

While the senior advisor and successor will ideally meet with top clients to assuage any concerns, team members should be kept abreast of these conversations so they can give consistent information when interacting with clients.

This is the second part in a two-part series on preparing teams for succession.

Click here for part one.