Identifying a Successor: Tough Questions That Can Save Your Business

Apr.19.2017 Resources for Business Leaders

Succession is often left to chance, but as a forward-thinking leader, you should do everything in your power to leave your business in trustworthy hands. Furthermore, you should leave it in a condition that is favorable for growth. Staying focused on the future requires discipline and careful planning that starts long before retirement. Let’s take a look at how American businesses are doing at succession:

  • 90% of businesses are privately owned.
  • 56% are anticipating a leadership transition in the next decade.
  • 30% successfully transition to a second generation leader, only 12% to a third.
  • Only 25% of owners have worked intentionally on succession, despite 58% saying it’s the biggest risk to the long-term health of their company.

As a follower of Jesus and a steward of God’s business, you should not fall into that last statistic. Our Lord describes very specific character attributes required for leaders of His Church in Paul’s epistles to Timothy and Titus. These traits are listed as necessary qualifications of those being considered for appointment as elders, deacons, pastors, shepherds, overseers, presbyters or bishops — all leadership roles. As we consider the qualities necessary for future leaders in our businesses, Scripture has much to tell us.

Sustaining Your Business as a Ministry

You view your company as God’s business, but how will your successor continue to make an impact for Christ? Whether or not you’ve identified them as such, you probably already have a likely successor. Think about who that person would be and take a moment to consider their leadership qualities. 

Answer Yes or No to the following questions about your successor. When it comes to Christian principles, “maybe” is simply not an option.

Is your successor…

  • blameless or above reproach?
  • one husband or one wife?
  • temperate, sober minded, self controlled?
  • of good behavior and respectiable?
  • hospitable?
  • able to teach?
  • given to drunkenness?
  • violent or quick tempered?
  • greedy, a lover of money, or pursuing dishonest gain?
  • quarrelsome, overbearing, self-willed?
  • manages his own family well and sees that his chldren obey him with proper respect?
  • sincere?
  • upright, holy, just, reverent?
  • loves what is good?
  • holds fast/firmly to the faithful word that he has been taught, so he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it?


A Personal To-Do of Eternal Significance

You should have very clear criteria for identifying a suitable successor. After defining those characteristics, you can focus on the discipleship and professional development they need to succeed. Since it’s highly unusual for the general marketplace or educational institutions to consider godly leadership characteristics, we must define this expectation and provide both on-the-job curriculum and constant reinforcement. Few CEOs begin to think about succession before it’s too late. Don’t let haste or reaction define your plan; make efforts now to get it right, and rest confidently in the words of Matthew 25:21: “Well done, good and faithful servant…”