Every mature professional services firm needs a strong succession planning process in place to ensure a smooth transition from the old guard to new leadership.

Without a plan in place, you’ll likely face steep training demands, “archeological digs” for lost knowledge, and painful cultural adjustments — as well as an unhealthy drag on day-to-day operations and focus.

Engage across generational divides

An important place to begin the succession planning process and ensure critical skills transfer is to engage and empower your teams across the generational divides. Establish regular forums where emerging leaders and experienced executives can explore new initiatives and fine tune existing programs together. These conversations will not only build a shared long-term vision for the organization, they will generate confidence that the success and values of the business will carry on into the future.

Documenting and understanding key processes and techniques

blogoffer-middle-2016highgrowth-studyDaily operations can often be a blur at a professional services firm, so it’s easy to see how documentation and sustained training initiatives can get left behind. Often succession events can drive firms to initiate hurried and often inadequate documentation efforts. A better route is to build iterative documentation and training for critical techniques into your day-to-day operations. This can be as simple as providing a checklist for new initiative launches, assigning champions or keepers for individual initiatives or key platforms, and making it easy for anyone involved to update documentation (Google Docs or wikis, for example, can make this relatively simple).

Documentation is important, but to support your succession planning process fully, consider where you need to cross train people to support it. Encourage teams to not only follow documentation but identify holes and inaccuracies when they find them. That way, unlike most written-down processes, your documentation will improve with time.

Use branding and cultural standards as a compass

During times of organizational change, consistent branding and cultural messaging can provide much needed solid ground. Keep strong focus around the core of your firm’s brand. Here are a few concepts to consider as you plan for change:

  • What are your firm’s key differentiators?
  • Do new or transitioning teams understand your firm’s positioning at both firm-wide and practice levels?
  • What is unique about your firm’s approach to its work?

Remind your team why you are a successful firm, in the first place. Articulate the qualities that make your business special in clear, easy-to-remember language. That way your people can speak to clients and prospects with a unified voice, even during times of internal transition and change.

What do you think? What Succession Planning Strategies are working for you? Thoughts? I’d love to hear from you.

Additional Resources:

How Hinge Can Help:
Hinge, a global leader in professional services branding and marketing, helps firms grow faster and become more profitable. We offer a comprehensive range of research, marketing and strategy services. Hinge also offers a complete suite of Branding Services for firms that are ready for transformational change.



Karl Feldman