Majority of UK SMEs admit to having no succession plan

A new report has found that 61 per cent of UK SMEs – equating to 3.4 million UK firms with fewer than 250 employees – have no clear plan in place to ensure that their businesses do not suffer when key staff leave.

This is despite the survey of over a thousand senior business decision-makers at UK SMEs revealing that more than one in seven believe the biggest threat to their business is the departure of a senior executive.

More than one in six are worried about a whole team leaving; this figure increases even further to over a quarter of medium-sized businesses – those with between 50 and 249 employees – that are concerned about multiple leavers.

When asked about succession plans, only one in ten SMEs surveyed felt they could survive without one on the basis that none of their staff members were indispensable or would be difficult to replace. Moreover, a further one in six SMEs have no defined succession plan in place because they are not expecting any key employees to depart in the short-term.

Of the two in five SMEs that have a succession plan in place, nearly half say this includes ensuring employees view their long-term future at the company and providing training to widen employees’ capabilities beyond their current roles. Over two in five of those SMEs with a succession plan already have individuals in mind to take on the pivotal and specialist roles in the business if other employees leave or step down.

Carl D’Ammassa, Group Managing Director, Business Finance at Aldermore, who commissioned the report, said: “It is concerning to find that the majority of SMEs do not have any succession plans in place despite being conscious of the adverse consequences that may result should crucial employees leave the business.

“When faced with the day-to-day demands of running their company, business owners can easily push succession planning down their list of priorities. However, good employees are hard to find so for SMEs putting in place a strategy to deal with the departure of key individuals is imperative, particularly since the departure of a key employee has the potential to hit smaller firms with fewer employees hardest.”