So here’s a tough question: you’re now sitting on the board, but how long do you plan to stay at the helm?

Many board members and chairs do not plan to stay forever, no matter how much they believe in the cause. While we strive to be involved as much as possible, we are pushed by many forces in all directions. From family matters to new job opportunities, one day you’re chairing a board, the next day, you’re gone.

We can see this in other management sectors as well. A 2006 survey from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found that within five years of starting up, more than one-third of independent business owners plan to move on, and the other two-thirds want to be gone within ten years.

The problem is, many of these owners sit on the board, and will need someone to replace them. Of course, there are many, many other types of businesses, companies, startups, and organisations that have boards. How you plan for succession is crucial in all of them to keep them running smoothly.

Now obviously you don’t want to leave years of sweat and tears on your organisation’s board to end up in the hands of some shlub. All your assets, and any processes for growth and maintenance, need to be properly handed over so everything stays afloat.

Here’s where succession planning and meticulous handover procedures can save you and all your board members time and effort, and afford you peace of mind while you move to your next big thing.

Succession Success

Succession planning is, essentially, the process of training new members and volunteers to move upward within the organisation. By always recruiting people who are motivated, skilled, and hopefully talented, you insure yourself against the road bumps that come along when your organisation expands or when a key board member moves on.

Let’s say that you’re the chairman of the board for a university sports club: you have a treasurer, a secretary, and maybe some events managers or coaches. Training your treasurer in all the important aspects of your position ensures that when you move on, whether the secretary takes over as chairman or not, the handover process is nice and smooth. If the treasurer does the same with the secretary, then so on, it’ll be a piece of cake.

Properly planning for succession is easy — so easy, in fact, that many people overthink it and agonise that they’re not prepared enough. In any sized organisation, keeping members in the loop regarding promotion opportunities, an organisational expansion, and leadership training, while encouraging everyone to aim for these opportunities, is a no-brainer.

You probably already have a newsletter doing just that — but if you don’t, then get on it. Ensuring you have thorough, written processes for moving members upward is crucial. Set hard dates for introductions, training, tours, and meetings. Write everything down. Use checklists and documentation, use your other board members, and you can even use your volunteers to make sure everything is recorded and everyone is clear about what is happening and when.

Hand It Over

Every committee or board in an organisation has a slightly different procedure for their handover. But there are a number of things everyone should be doing for a thorough and successful handover. The process can take weeks — but organising yourself beforehand cuts that time down exponentially. Some key things to do are:

Organise your documentation.

Keep copies of all your minutes, annual reports, staff personnel files, organisational handbooks, bank statements, audited accounts, insurance certificates, inventory lists, everything, in a place where you can easily hand it over to whoever is filling your position. Having the necessary documents ready to go will save you time and stress scrounging through emails and filing cabinets when the time does come.

Hold meetings, and plan for them.

A handover meeting is your chance to tell the incoming member everything they need to know about the role, and for them to ask questions. They’ll have prepared their questions beforehand, so you’ll need to prepare your answers, and your explanations. Having your documentation ready will guide this process.

Ensure that you’re covered.

Your government and/or bank will likely require a pretty large number of forms filled out when the handover is completed. Make sure you liaise with these institutions thoroughly before the handover begins, so that everyone is on the same page and everything gets completed.

Move On

Once you’ve ensured your organisation’s legacy, there’s only one thing to do: buckle down on the next project. If you follow all our advice above, you’ll be left with a clear mind, ready to make your next great idea a reality. Now go get it done.