How Succession Planning is Essential to Success for a Growth Company


November 19, 2015
HTG-Peer-Group-Event-Speakers Chris Boyle and Bill McCharen were invited to speak to a group of managed service provider owners at the HTG Peer Groups Leadership Academy in early May, 2015, about their ten year journey and the lessons they’d learned along the way.

Click the picture to see a 10 minute edited video of Chris and Bill’s talk

The following is adapted from Chris Boyle’s speaker notes:

When we were invited to share our story with you, I first asked myself, “What would you want to hear?” The obvious answer was, “You’ll want to know how you can do what Bill and I have done.”

That was four months ago and since then I’ve thought a lot about what I could say to you, other than, “Find yourself a Bill McCharen,” which would not be helpful at all.

I’m often overwhelmed with gratitude when I think about the serendipity of us meeting each other the way we did and sharing this journey for the last ten years. I don’t think I could tell you how to find your Bill.

But as I’ve been thinking about our story, I’ve come up with a few nuggets I hope will help you, whether you already have someone like Bill or would like to find and nurture a similar, successful relationship. Here they are:

  • Invest in yourself
  • Create the right environment
  • Find the right people
  • Invest in them
  • Let go

Invest in yourself

I love the Verne Harnish motto: “Outlearn the competition!” I’m a lifelong learner, and I just love to learn. If you’re the same, that’s great. If not, I urge you to learn to love to learn. I believe it’s a crucial quality for leaders of growth companies.

Never stop learning. Learn something new every day. Read. A lot! Have a pile of books on your shelf you just can’t wait to get to. If you can’t stand to read books, find another way to learn and let it be like super-food to you, giving you courage, energy and strength.

As you study, make notes in some fashion. Look for things you can use, and use those things. Think of how you can teach what you’re learning. It’s going to come in handy.

You must always learn and grow if you want to grow your company.

Create the right environment

Before you find your Bill, you’d better have a place where Bill will want to work. A place where he can see a path that aligns to his future career goals.

At MyITpros, we believe in continuous learning and growth. It’s one of our core values.

Because we’re a growth company, we understand the importance of succession planning. People who are constantly learning and growing need room to grow, and roles to grow into.

When I took over the company in 2002, I wore every hat in the org chart but one – I’m not technical and didn’t provide direct service to our clients. We had two full-time techs and one part timer, and me. Today, we are a team of 25 people with plans to hire two more as soon as we find the right ones, and we’re always recruiting. This kind of growth wouldn’t  have happened without a plan for succession, and with great people to grow into new positions.

As I’ve stepped out of roles and assigned them to people like Bill, the roles evolve as the successor delegates’ duties creating new roles for others.

We’ve been firmly committed to growing leaders within our company, and that commitment grows as we grow. In the near future Bill will be CEO and majority shareholder. For us to get there successfully, we must have leaders ready to step into exciting new areas of duty and accountability.

Find the right people

When I think about all of our strengths, and how much we’ve learned as the company has grown, I believe the single most important skill we’ve developed is finding the right people.

Years ago we made a commitment to having 100% “A” players at MyITpros. Today we have rigorous disciplines at every stage of the recruiting process. Culture fit is key, and that begins with our core values. There must be alignment here, and while technical skills are important, they’re secondary to culture fit.

Finding the right people is a start. Next, you must…

Invest in them

Just as we thrive when we help our clients get to where they want to be, we win when we help our people win. We believe in being a workplace where every employee has a clear career path and is actively involved in the grooming of their successors – the teaching, coaching, and mentoring of those who will take over their roles as they advance within the company.

In our experience the single biggest investment is time. When you study coaching you learn that helping someone gain the confidence to answer their own questions takes longer than simply answering the questions for them. But if you do it well and consistently, it pays off in spades. In time, things get done more efficiently. You can move on to filling the next gap – and in a growth company, there are always gaps to fill.

There was a time just a few years ago, when I felt like I spent every other minute of my life in meetings. Weekly one-to-one meetings with each of my direct reports, leadership team meetings, sales meetings, marketing meetings, finance meetings, the list goes on and on!

All along the way a lesson continues to hit home: You cannot over-communicate. Believe me. The minute you think you’re communicating well, you’ll find out that someone important is not clear on something.

Learn to do meetings well. We’ve tried a lot of meeting formats over the years, incorporating lessons from Patrick Lencioni and Verne Harnish. Many of you have read the book Traction by Gino Wickham. His meeting formats are fantastic. If you make every weekly meeting you have a Level 10 Meeting, and follow his format for quarterly and annual planning sessions, the time you invest in meetings will change your life radically, for the better.

Clearly the most powerful investment I’ve made is in weekly one-to-one meetings with my direct reports. Each lasts 60 to 90 minutes, and I could spend that much time right now teaching you how to get started. But that’ll have to be another session some other day.

Let go

It’s easy for me to say, “Let go” – because I love doing new things. Consequently, it’s easy for me to let go of something once I’ve done it a while.

I know that some of you may have a hard time delegating. Or you love what you are doing and you really don’t want to let go. But if your goal is to have a succession plan for all of the hats you’re wearing today, you’ve got to learn to let go.

To me, growth is often about letting go. First you need to let go of habits or beliefs that do not serve you. And of course, you’ve got to let go of what you’re doing and let someone else do it.

An old saying is appropriate here: “Hire the best and the brightest and get out of their way.” Look for people who are smarter than you and have the potential to be better than you in every role you hand off to them.

You must trust. And if you invest in yourself; if you create the right environment; if you find the right people and invest in them, then when you let go, I think you’ll find they will far exceed your expectations.



Chris_Boyle_CEOChris Boyle, CEO

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