How to choose a successor for your business

Finding and appointing the right successor to lead your business, after you retire or leave to pursue other opportunities, can help your business continue to succeed. How do you determine the best person to carry on your vision?                 

Your successor may be:                                                                                            

  • A colleague or family member who works in the business
  • A partner through a merger
  • An external party with whom you negotiate a sale

Important considerations in choosing a successor:


Your choice may be limited by how much time you have before you want to make your exit. If there isn’t a lot of time, you need to focus on people who are ready to step in immediately, and who require little training and development. If there isn’t someone in your organization who can take on the job right away, you’ll need to look further afield and will need more time.


Assess candidates to make sure there’s a good fit with the culture of your organization which can be harder than assessing their skills. Define and prioritize the attributes you’d like your successor to have. For example:

  • Strength of character—integrity, professionalism, commitment
  • Business acumen—decisiveness, initiative, ambition
  • Leadership skills—ability to motivate, influence, co-operate
  • Problem-solving skills—intelligence, analytical ability, insight
  • Cultural fit—philosophy, attitude, pace

Clarify what kind of successor you want

Make your own list of essential and nice-to-have attributes, being as detailed as possible. With a clear picture in your mind of the kind of successor you want in place, you’ll have an easier time recognizing a good candidate.

At the same time, stay realistic. You won’t find a clone of yourself, and that’s okay. What you can find is someone who shares some of your attributes, your passion—and, most importantly, your vision of how to lead your business through the transition and into the future.

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