“You can never tell what’s around the corner”: Here’s how to nail succession planning

Written by Annie Makoff-Clark Tuesday 09 January 2024
Recruiting a successor is no easy task — who should take over, and when? And if a family business, how do you navigate the pressure of this complex dynamic? Here’s how to navigate the succession planning process, and implement it successfully
Image: Shutterstock / Isa H

When Bill Graham made the decision to retire as managing director of UK-based manufacturer Alloy Wire International, after more than 40 years of service, he wasn’t prepared for how arduous succession planning could be.

This was back in 2010, and Bill was planning to retire within three years, then sell the business via a management buyout process (MBO) to a new management team that he would put together. 

But first, he had to recruit his successor. 

It took hundreds of applicants to land the right person. Eventually, he found Mark Venables, who joined as an external candidate with a remit to take the business to the next level, to maintain Alloy Wire’s high standards and, crucially, deliver a robust succession plan. 

“I always knew that if I wasn’t thinking about succession planning right from the start, I’d be in a similar situation to Bill, who was approaching 60 and was concerned he’d left it too late,” says Mark. “For the first few years of my role as MD, each time I recruited someone new, I’d consider their potential as a director.” 

Mark steered the company to a huge increase in sales. Turnover was £4.5m in 2010; it hit £18m this year. There’s now a new board of directors, including a new MD, an R&D director, a technical director and a finance director. Bill fully retired last year – 13 years later than planned.   

Want to learn how to get succession planning right?


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