Can you take a vacation without a laptop or tablet? If you answered no to this question then you might be facing one or two of the following scenarios:

You believe that your role is to make all the important decisions and solve the all significant problems. And you don’t have the right team in place to keep the business on course in your absence.

Related: Common Vacation Mistakes Managers Make (Infographic)

The more important longer-term issue (aside from preparing your team for your absence) is recognizing the need for a succession plan. Business owners should not delay and push off this decision. Down the road, potential purchasers of the company will look for a strong management team to be in place.

When I was managing my consulting business in the 1990s, I worried each time I took a vacation about what I’d come back to. I didn’t have the luxury while traveling of tapping into the high-speed Internet and wireless connections that exist today. If I did, I would have been forever checking my email and never turning off my phone. Instead, I never truly relaxed.

Meanwhile any business owner experiencing any signs of a situation like this should start by making it a strategic goal to attract and retain top talent, so that the company becomes an employer of choice and job candidates are lining up to join the company. More importantly you need to have a strategic succession plan as part of your annual business plan. My book, Replaceable, An Obsession with Succession steps you through the process of developing and executing a succession plan. If you aren’t ready to read a book, then take the following five steps to set things in motion for the company’s leadership over the long term.

Related: Downton Abbey: Lord Grantham’s 5 Worst Management Mistakes

1. Assess yourself as a leader.

One of the main roles of a leader is to develop the talents of those around him or her and prepare them for the future of the business. How are you building your team’s talent? What tasks are you currently handling that you need to delegate but have not?

Are you developing yourself as a leader? Your employees look to you first and it’s vital that you model the very behavior that you expect staff members to deliver.

2. Fully evaluate the management team.

Which people on your team can you fully count on to make decisions and solve problems in your absence? Who are your key employees? Use an assessment tool to evaluate the skills and behaviors of managers. I recommend using one that is validated for hiring so you can incorporate it into the entire talent life cycle. This will help you as the business owner or president to identify any gaps on your management team.

No leadership team is perfect. As a business owner you need to identify any shortcomings. What skills are missing or need improvement before you have the confidence that you can check out for more than a couple of days?

What are you doing that you can start delegating? And what can’t you delegate or don’t want to delegate?

3. Decide on a plan for improvement.

Which members of your staff can be developed to meet the current and future leadership needs of the organization? Who has the potential to step in your stead should you become ill, disabled or die in an accident? What do members of your team need to learn before you can trust that all things will run smoothly in such circumstances and will continue along a path according to your vision?

4. Make needed changes.

One of the biggest challenges that entrepreneurs and small business owners might face is letting go of any managers who’ve stuck it out with them over the years. This might include employees who joined the company early on and who’ve been by their side through the good, the bad and the ugly.

The problem is that these people might be loyal but they may have become ineffective for some reason and the company has outgrown them. Be courageous and make that difficult decision.

5. Conduct assessments of the entire organization.

It isn’t enough to fine-tune the management team. Be sure that employees at all levels can be evaluated by providing managers with the appropriate training and tools to effectively assess them.


Don’t wait to start your succession planning process, I’ve worked with many 60 plus year-olds who were delayed in exiting their business because they didn’t have a successor in place. It’s never too early.