None of us will live forever, and most of us do not want to work forever either. If you own your own company, it is important to plan for your retirement or unexpected death. If your business is to be your legacy and continue beyond your involvement, you must engage in succession planning early enough to ensure your successor has all the necessary skills to replace you.

However, finding and training a successor to replace yourself is only one important part of succession planning. You should also address how your business will manage the potential loss of any of its other important leaders.

Succession planning may seem daunting, but you can break it into manageable steps. A recent Forbes article outlined four steps to help you get started. They include:

  • Identify critical positions
  • Make sure leadership is on board
  • Decide if successors should be internal or external
  • Share the plan with possible successors

In general, it is important to start off by determining which positions must always be filled for your business to continue operating. Typically, succession plans focus on the positions at the top of a business’s hierarchy because they are so crucial for the company’s success.

Then, you should reach out to those who currently fill those crucial roles and help them understand the importance of implementing a succession plan. It works best when these people can train their own successors, rather than have successors stumble around in their roles after your current leaders have already left.

Although many businesses prefer to promote an existing employee rather than recruit and hire a new one, sometimes there are no existing employees with the appropriate qualifications. Knowing if the successors will be internal or external can help to develop appropriate training programs.

If potential successors have been identified within your business, it is important to discuss that opportunity with them. This allows you to see how interested they might be, and it may help prevent them from pursuing other opportunities.

Although the need to begin succession planning may not seem imminent, it is important to have a plan in place before the need arises to use the plan. Be sure to get started early, and to avoid getting overwhelmed, consider taking it one step at a time.