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There comes a point in most everyone’s life when it’s time to call it quits and retire. If you work for a business, giving notice may be as simple as a resignation letter.

If, on the other hand, you own the business, making an exit can be a little more difficult. You must decide if you are going to sell the business, hand it over to a relative, or simply close it down.

Should you opt to sell or hand it off, you can plan for your business successor ahead of time.

Start as Early as Possible

When you first start a business you probably aren’t actively planning for your business successor. But you should start planning for one as early as possible thereafter.

You never know when something will happen that could leave you unable to remain at the helm of your company. Life is unpredictable and things do happen that are out of your control.

Set Up Your Business to Run Without You

Even if you weren’t able to plan for your business successor early on, you can still start now. Create processes that ensure you aren’t the only one with passwords or other information vital to running the business. Also, have someone, or a couple of someones, who can assume your duties should you be unavailable for any length of time.

Determine a Time Frame

But those actions alone won’t really plan for your business successor with any permanency. To do that, you’ll need to make further arrangements for an exit strategy.

Whether you’re selling or handing the business on to a younger family member, you’ll need to determine a time frame. For instance, if you’re retiring soon, you want to find a successor sooner rather than later.

Setting a tentative date helps you know when to divulge certain business details to your successor. Additionally, the information shared with this person will need to be detailed enough so they can run the business completely.

However, if your exit is years away, you may simply need someone who can manage the business during absences. Of course, they should still have enough information to handle everything, just in case.

Find the Right Person

As you search for the right person to be your business successor, is helps if you’ve identified their key roles. To do that, start by updating their job description first. This will help you identify what they do as well as the skills they will need.

Next, look internally to find employees that might fit the role of successor with a bit of polish. Keep in mind if the role is satisfied internally, that person’s job may need to be filled as well.

Don’t forget to take into consideration the future needs of your business. While searching for your business successor, watch for knowledge or skills that will benefit the company down the road.

Prepare the Staff

Once you’ve found the right person to take the reins of your business, you’ll want to inform your other staff members. They’ll be more likely to remain on board and loyal to the business if they are well informed. Additionally, your business successor will need their support and help to make the transition a success.

Train Your Successor

As you train your business successor, you may want to have them job shadow you for a length of time. After they’re ready, hand them the reins and simply observe while helping them with any obstacles or problems. After a few weeks or so, your replacement should feel comfortable enough to take over permanently.

All business owners and managers move on at some point. Deciding how to exit and plan for your business successor when you move on makes leaving easier on everyone.