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What Businesses Can Learn From Prince’s Death

June 08, 2016 by Ed Weirauch

Prince’s death carries a message: plan ahead


When popular music icon Prince died suddenly early this year, shock was the common reaction among people who knew him, his fans and even people who vaguely knew his music or maybe his name.  And although Prince may have left behind a non-traditional empire, his death brings home the message that anticipation of and planning for a leader’s sudden departure can have a lasting and major impact on an organization.

For a huge corporation, succession planning may be set out in its bylaws and require annual revisits.  But smaller companies and especially entrepreneurships can sometimes overlook this need when pursuing new business, entering a new market or focusing on initiatives with shorter-term impact.  Unfortunately however, nothing is absolutely for sure, as Prince’s fans found out.

Does your organization have a succession plan in writing, agreed to and filed in a spot where colleagues other than the CEO can get to it?  That’s of course the first question.  If not, here is a guide to structure your thinking and planning from the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and other business organizations.

Be pro-active.  This is the first key.  An organization without a leader is of course fraught with uncertainty and in many cases, can be avoided entirely.  Even a succession plan that identifies temporary or interim leaders will serve your entire work force and help to keep them focused on the work at-hand.

Select and train your best leaders.  Putting internal people in place increases the likelihood that the current leader’s vision for an organization will continue.  In addition, it contributes to stability at a time when uncertainty can be widespread.  And building from within is a lot less expensive than a search for a new leader.

Anticipation.  Pre-thought and planning almost goes without saying but anticipate changing leadership when you are in a position to bring on a new leadership team member.  Ask yourself about the prospect’s potential in the face of a sudden leadership change.

In addition, check the larger status of your organization.  If the following factors are in place at the time of a leader’s sudden departure, your company is more likely to successfully navigate the inevitable rough waters.

Do you have a company analysis and is it current? How about an industry analysis?  What’s happening with your competition?  Make sure such an analysis and all this information is available and not just in a few people’s heads.

Who are your customers?  Are some of them “old friends” or contacts of the founder-president?  Make sure their contact information and the nature of their business is known to your leadership team.

Does your marketing plan have buy-in from your senior executives or just you as the leader?  If it doesn’t, that means a conflict is almost certain should something unforeseen happen (see Prince a few months ago).  The marketing plan can reveal your organization’s direction.

Finally, know your organization’s culture.  Does it embrace change or avoid it at all costs.  This is of course an important question because it can give an indication long before a sudden departure or unforeseen development happens.  Do what you can to ease such an event by developing a plan so that your team and entire company aren’t affected the way Prince fans and followers were: in shock.

Just talking about a succession plan can be unsettling but think of it this way: the alternative can be far worse.  Companies have failed, become takeover targets and ended up entwined in drama in the absence of such a plan.  A leader’s demise doesn’t have to be followed by the organization’s failure and a leader’s foresight and planning can strengthen its future.  That’s a real good legacy.

Ed Weirauch

Ed Weirauch

Resume Writer | Career Transition Coach | Public Relations | Career Assessments

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