Interview all the time. Organizationally, your goal is simple - hire the best people possible and meld them into a team that produces superior results. In my experience, executives that do this well are interviewing job candidates all the time and insist that their managers do the same. Fred Christen is President of Hallmark Stone, fabricator and installer of kitchen countertops in Fenton, Mo. Fred requires that his managers be interviewing job candidates all the time and that each one have a "farm team" of live candidates interested in working for the company. This is the kind of proactive recruiting that, over time, fills your company with leaders.
Consider using recruiters. Many small businesses have never used an executive recruiter to fill a position. If you have a senior management position to fill, the right "headhunter" will be a real asset. Ask around. You will be surprised at the companies that have used these services successfully. Like every other service, get referrals from people you trust.
Pay for talent. As a friend of mine says, money doesn't talk, it screams. Find out what good people are getting paid in similar roles in your industry and be prepared to be competitive with this number. Investment precedes return. If you want to hire A-players, you have to pay for them.
Don't micromanage. Accountability is critical but micromanagement never works. A-players hate to be micromanaged. On the one hand you must work with them to set the right goals and invest resources wisely. You also must provide appropriate accountability. But if you are going to hire and develop strong people you must give them the freedom to lead and manage. If you find over time that you have an executive or manager who must be micromanaged in order to create good results, you have the wrong person in that job.
CONCLUSION. Succession planning is about starting with the end in mind. If your goal is to sell your business one day, or even hire others to run it while you curtail your hours, the steps described above will get you on the right track. Investment always precedes return, and as Vic Haas says, "If entrepreneurs want to increase the amount a buyer will pay for their business, they have to make an investment in people who can run it for them."
Eric Herrenkohl is Founder and President of Herrenkohl Consulting (www.herrenkohlconsulting.com), a management consulting firm focused on creating organizations that drive growth and profits. His work has been published or cited in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Inc.com, Monster.com, Careerbuilder.com, and MSNBC.com. Eric is also the author of Performance Principles, a monthly e-letter that reaches thousands of subscribers across North America and is re-printed in a number of industry and company newsletters.