23 Mar 2023

Succession Planning: A Must-Have For StartUps

What is Succession Planning?

Exit sign on orange background

Succession planning…we’ve all heard about it, but what exactly does it mean, and how do we do it effectively? Succession planning is the process of identifying and developing employees who have the potential to fill essential leadership (usually*) positions within a business. In the tech startup world, where rapid growth and change are the norms, succession planning is particularly important to ensure the continued success of the company.

*The other type of role to have a succession plan against are your subject matter experts.

Many startup leaders are classified as single points of failure. Why? Because if they were to leave, 9 times out of 10, there isn’t anybody who harnesses the leaver’s skillset and knowledge. Coupled with potentially slow or ineffective hiring processes, what do you know – there’s a gap in the core operation of your business, potentially leading to financial loss. By having a well-defined succession plan, companies can reduce the risks and ensure they have a strong pipeline of future leaders.

Image of Suf Baileche

Suf Baileche is the founder of a people & talent consultancy (Beaumont Talent) specifically for startups after having a successful 10-year career in the talent space across startups & scaleups. He has experience in building tech & commercial/ops teams from the ground up. Specialising in talent strategy and creating a culture that puts people at the heart of a company.

Are There Different Types of Succession Planning?

Yes, there are two main buckets of succession planning: proactive & reactive. Proactive succession planning is a long-term approach that involves identifying potential leaders and developing them to fill key roles within your company. On the other hand, reactive succession planning is a short-term approach that involves quickly identifying replacements for key roles in case of unexpected events. Both have their merits…

Within those buckets, you also have sub-categories that help you have the right people in the right roles.

1. Replacement Planning: This type of planning focuses on identifying specific individuals to replace key leaders in the event of unexpected departures. Replacement planning is reactive in nature and does not involve developing employees for future roles.

2. Talent Review: This type of planning involves assessing employees’ potential and performance to identify those who have the ability to take on leadership roles in the future. Talent review is a proactive approach and involves developing employees for future roles.

3. Succession Planning: This type of planning combines both replacement planning and talent review to identify potential leaders and develop them for future roles.

What Should be Included in a Succession Plan?

Succession planning is important for continuity and employee engagement, but how do we execute an effective succession plan? What should be involved?

The first step in creating a successful succession plan is identifying potential successors early on (sometimes as early as in candidate interviews – and I’m not joking). This involves identifying employees who have the potential to take on leadership roles in the future and providing them with the training and development they need to be successful. This can involve mentoring programmes, job shadowing, and leadership development training.

A succession plan should be customised to an organisation’s unique needs and goals. However, there are some essential components that all succession plans should have:

1. Key positions: Identify the key positions within the business that are critical to its success.

2. Job Descriptions: Clearly defined job descriptions outlining the duties and responsibilities of each role within an organisation.

3. Succession Criteria: Objective and measurable criteria for identifying potential successors, including required skills, knowledge, and experience. This can be done by building solid career development & competency frameworks (but that’s for another blog).

4. Leadership Development: Programmes designed to develop employees’ leadership and management skills to prepare them for future roles within the organisation. This can either be done internally by your people team or through third party leadership courses.

5. Succession Tracking: A process for tracking and monitoring the progress of potential successors to ensure they are on track to meet the organisation’s succession criteria.

Whatever you do, communicate, communicate, communicate. Communication is critical when it comes to succession planning. It is important that all employees understand what is expected of them and what opportunities are available for career development.

Succession planning is not a one-time event but an ongoing process. It is important to regularly review and update the succession plan to ensure that it remains relevant and effective. This involves monitoring the progress of potential successors, identifying any gaps in their development (hint: Google skills gap analysis calculators to get you started with this), and making adjustments as necessary.

What Can Help With The Delivery of a Succession Plan?

I know what you’re thinking…’This sounds like a long process. It may be fine now, but how does it scale? How do I keep track of it all?’. I get it, but as I’ve always said: Invest in your team because, without a team, you have no company. I do come bearing gifts because there are frameworks and software out there to help you with all of the above!

Succession planning frameworks:

1. Performance Reviews: Regular performance reviews provide insight into employees’ strengths and weaknesses, which can inform succession planning decisions.

2. Competency Models: Competency models outline the skills and knowledge needed for success in specific roles and can be used to guide employee

3. Career Pathing: Career pathing involves mapping out potential career paths for employees within the organisation and can help identify potential successors for key roles.

4. Skills Gap Analysis: This involves identifying skills gaps in both an individual level & team level

Succession planning tooling:

1. Succession Planning Software: Software that helps you track and manage succession planning efforts, including employee performance data, career aspirations, and potential successors.

2. Performance Management Software: Software that helps you track and manage employee performance, identify areas for development and set performance goals.


Well, there we have it. A whistle-stop tour of what succession planning is and how to start implementing one at your company.

To reiterate, succession planning is a critical aspect of any organisation’s long-term success. By identifying and developing potential future leaders, you can ensure continuity of operations, reduce risks associated with leadership changes, and create a culture of engagement and career development.

By identifying potential leaders and developing them for future roles, startups can ensure they have the right people in the right positions to drive growth and innovation. It requires a long-term commitment and ongoing effort, but the rewards are well worth the investment. By incorporating the right tools and processes, startups can streamline the succession planning process and ensure they are prepared for the future.