Importance of succession planning

By Mark Oakley, Magnus Group

There is sometimes an elephant in the room when it comes to business planning. Most companies are efficient at forecasting, budgeting and working through a strategic plan. But few take enough – if any – notice of succession planning.
Published in Suffolk Director magazine, Summer|Autumn 2022

Logistics: Magnus Group

For a company like Magnus Group, which has a close-knit board of three directors in Olly Magnus (CEO), me and Martin Gomersall (Group Operations Director), we realised that we should be held to account by a senior leadership team.

Magnus Group has grown fast in the last few years. We now employ around 150 people at Great Blakenham and at the Port of Felixstowe. There is a lot of talent within the business, but we identified six or seven people who we believe could be the company’s future.

That decision is already proving valuable with drive and ideas coming from the SLT – and because we as a board are challenging ourselves more.

Develop or stand still

Our new leadership team can aspire to step up to director level. It’s the sensible way for us to leave a legacy for others to continue growing the company when we’re gone. As a business, you must identify these people and develop them – or stand still.

I work with our Head of Personnel and Development, Emma Lightfoot, to offer training to the SLT where it will help their skillset. Two are already undergoing Institute of Leadership Management training to level three. Others have been through it, one of them to level five.

As directors, we will be mentoring and helping them, giving them all the tools they need to do the job, so that in five years or whenever it might be, they could be the people to step into our shoes.

It’s a win-win situation for the company. We reward a small team by identifying them as tomorrow’s leaders, and the business benefits from their expertise and drive. And, of course, the rest of our excellent staff see a progression path they can aspire to.

Planning down to entry-level

Planning like this does not just have to be for senior leaders. It follows that if a member of the SLT steps up to the board, then someone below them takes the SLT spot, and so on. We are keen, therefore, to develop people from entry-level up.

For that reason, we are getting more involved in the apprenticeship model, and engaging more with colleges like Suffolk One and universities that might offer logistics degrees. We like to offer work experience placements, too.

And we’re excited about our relationship with the Royal Logistics Corps at RAF Wattisham. Olly and I have visited several times to offer insights into life in logistics outside of the armed services. In return, we might encourage skilled personnel venturing into Civvy Street to join us. Plus, we learn one or two things about planning and leadership from the army.

Succession planning should be on every company’s to-do list. Ignoring it can expose gaps at the top with nobody qualified to fill them. So, make sure your building blocks are in place.

Importance of succession planning 1

Mark Oakley is Managing Director of Magnus Group

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