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The Generation Game

The PVC window industry has been operating at full bore for some 20 years and many senior people are beginning to consider the issue of succession. It's a make or break issue that separates one-generation businesses from those that put down roots to create a second and third generation. Sadly, because they don't take it seriously enough - or start soon enough, most never make it to second base.

The discussion usually starts with openers such as “It's time I took a back seat. How can I make sure I get the right people to take over?” If senior managers choose poorly the business suffers. If they choose well it flourishes.

In my early days as a manager I was given five golden rules for recruitment:

  1. Take your time. When asked how he cracked the problem of gravity, Isaac Newton replied: “I thought about it for a very long time indeed.” Sometimes, because of length of service, skills or history, expectations develop as to who may succeed you. But companies often outgrow the capabilities of key personnel. Perhaps someone has a friend or relative they think fits the bill. Don't be rushed into a decision. Your best fabricator may not be the best person to manage your factory, just as your best salesman may not be MD material.

  2. Write down carefully and precisely what you need in the person to fill the position. There are more demands on managers than ten years ago. New laws on health and safety, data protection and privacy, and employment for example are enacted in a fast flowing stream that managers cannot ignore. As times get tougher, and the market becomes progressively more competitive, managers and supervisors need to ensure that they improve productivity, quality and customer service in a systematic way. To help focus on what I needed in a new manager I always wrote down ten key attributes. Here are five:

    • Knowledge of H&S
    • Attitude to continuous improvement
    • Qualifications
    • Job knowledge
    • Leadership qualities

    Each job is different so you will have your own list, but the process will help you focus objectively.

  3. Prepare a job description. Write down what the job entails - what is important and what is expected of a jobholder. If you already have one, update it to reflect the changing times.

  4. Take independent advice. Large companies have personnel specialists to help managers make 'people decisions'. Smaller companies can benefit from independent advice on preparing job descriptions and compiling the key attributes. A good recruitment agency should be able to advise you. If they can't, look elsewhere.

  5. Interview a number of candidates and be seen to be fair. Interview people both from within and outside the company - external candidates may bring a fresh momentum to the business. It's important that your existing work force see that, even if an external candidate is appointed, the selection process is fair.

Selecting the wrong person may have far-reaching consequences for the business. But don't delay. The right person will build up your company to a whole new level. Take selection seriously, and start early. Two to three years ahead of you taking a back seat is none too soon.

We don't get involved in recruiting, but if this strikes a chord and you feel you could benefit from advice call Helen Ahern or myself on 01453 521621, or email me at david@521621.com.

 

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