After an election season that at times seemed endless and at other times seemed downright surreal, we finally have a new leader of the free world. Now that the transition from one administration to the next is fully underway, we felt the time was right to talk about another kind of transition.

Succession planning is an important subject for every business owner, yet the task often gets pushed to the back burner. It can be hard to think about succession when the daily demands of running a business seem more pressing, but eventually, that succession period will come, and when it does, business owners need to be ready.

 As strange as it seems, business owners and entrepreneurs can learn some valuable succession planning lessons by looking at how President Elect Trump has handled his transition so far. No matter how you felt about the election or the quality of the candidates, there are valuable succession planning lessons to be drawn from the transition currently underway, and from previous presidential transitions as well. Here are a few key succession planning takeaways from the transition that is unfolding before our eyes.

Loyalty is Important, But So Is Diversity of Opinion

Effective succession planning encompasses many different, and diverse, tasks. From developing an in-depth knowledge of the company's product line to forging positive relationships with the current leadership team and rank-and-file workforce to understanding the company culture and its history, there are plenty of things to think about.

Guiding an already successful company through a transition in ownership and leadership is no small task, and that is why effective leaders work hard to foster loyalty and build a solid team they can rely on.

Presidential transitions work in many of the same ways, but the Trump transition is a particularly interesting example. When the dust settled from one of the most contentious elections in history, many critics worried that President Elect Trump would surround himself with sycophants and yes men, just as some incoming CEOs and new business owners have done.

Instead, the incoming President Elect focused on building a diverse team, one that included both loyalists and outsiders. From Rick Perry to Rex Tillerson, the cabinet picks so far have shown a willingness to listen to other opinions. Tillerson, for instance, has been openly critical of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, a dictator Donald Trump has been criticized for praising and even embracing.

Only time will tell how the Trump transition team will do in office, but entrepreneurs and business owners can learn a lot from the example. Business leaders who surround themselves with opinions they want to hear and block out the rest are doomed to failure, and effective succession planning means building a team that includes a diversity of thought and opinion.

Understand What Made Your Predecessor Successful

President Elect Donald Trump took a lot of heat, mostly from his supporters and voters, for what seemed like a cozy relationship with outgoing President Obama. After a contentious and often openly hostile pre-election relationship, the two rivals suddenly seemed friendly and even chummy. Trump voters were perplexed, and not a little miffed, by the change in opinion.

What those supporters did not know was that President Elect Trump was employing a tried-and-true business tactic - one that seeks to analyze the success of others and turn it to their advantage. 

Donald Trump may be wildly successful in the world of business, but he is still brand new to the world of politics. By analyzing, and learning from, the success of his predecessor, he is employing a classic tactic of succession planning.

In the world of business, when a new owner or CEO comes on board, they seek the advice and guidance of the current business owner or other leaders. Even if the new owner sees the world differently, they can still learn a lot from the ones who came before.

Be Ready to Hit the Ground Running

It may seem strange to compare a small business succession plan to the process of moving from one presidential administration to the next. But on closer examination, it is easy to see the connection.

When a small business owner sells the business or grooms a trusted associate to take over, the succession period is an extended process. There are business strategies to discuss, future growth plans to talk about and financial practicalities to address. This process can take months, just like the presidential transition process.

While the succession planning process is often long and drawn out, the individual doing the succeeding needs to be ready to hit the ground running. Even if they are still learning the business and how it operates, they need to be willing to lead from day one.

For good or bad, President-Elect Trump is certainly hitting the ground running, even if part of that running takes the form of 3 a.m. tweets. The tactics may be controversial, but entrepreneurs and succession planners would do well to pay attention.

No matter who you are or what kind of business you own, you need to have a proper succession plan in place to protect your employees, your customers and the brand image you have so carefully nurtured throughout the years. Maybe you started your firm decades ago as a labor of love. Maybe you are a serial entrepreneur who loves watching ideas blossom and grow. Perhaps you are the proud owner of a family business and ready to let the kids take the reins.

Whatever the situation, if you do not have a succession plan in place, you are playing with fire and risking the very future of your business. Having a trusted partner you can turn to can help you develop a winning succession plan even as you improve the quality of your current business practices. From creating a benchmark showing how you stack up against your peers to practical matters like determining the true value of your business, the advice of experts can guide you through every step of the transition process and let you get the most out of the firm you have worked so hard to build.

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Disclaimer

The above article is meant for information purposes only and is not intended in any way to provide legal or other advice for any specific situation.  Readers always should consult their own tax, accounting and legal advisors before taking any action related to the above article or subject matter.

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