Internal succession planning

A person showing on information to another one on his table in front of a vehicle's engineer.

The start of a new calendar year is the perfect time to consider a succession plan covering the internal departments within your business, so this is not a succession plan for the change of ownership – that’s a totally different story. To help get you started with an internal succession plan, here’s a checklist.

In the small business world the term 'succession planning' typically relates to the transition of business ownership to a family member, a staff member or a pre-arranged industry associate. In the corporate world it more generally relates to the training, retention, and progression of staff into key leadership positions.

Regardless of where you fit in the business world, the common theme is planning, if you desire to ensure your business continues trading in an organised and seamless manner. Succession planning doesn’t need to be a complex process. It can be as simple as developing a list of what you want to achieve, implement, or improve in the future.

Here’s a checklist:

Staff planning

Staff shortages have become the biggest issue facing the industry. There is no immediate solution on the horizon, so if a valuable staff member leaves, a replacement timetable would be unpredictable in the current climate. For this reason, your planning focus must be on managing existing staff.

In a model auto workshop, the owner or manager should have a fair idea of everyone’s career aspirations, just from staff meetings or regular personal reviews. If not, consider these issues:

  • Is it time for pay reviews for any staff?
  • Do new staff need to be recruited?

  • Is it time to put on an apprentice?

  • Have any technical staff expressed a desire to transition to an administration role?

  • Are any staff due to take long service leave?

  • What impact will the loss of a key staff member have on the business and how will the business adapt?

Training planning

Keeping up with technology is an ongoing issue and technological advancements will multiply as electric vehicles gain traction. For this reason, training for you and your staff must be ongoing and non-negotiable. There is no shortage of quality face-to-face and online training.

  • Sit down with each team member and discuss what training they would like to do in 2023.
  • Do staff members need specific training on any diagnostic, service or tools areas that will help the business to progress and to retain customers?

  • Are there jobs or services that only the owner or manager can perform?

  • Is there a need or a desire to train technical staff in front office administration duties?

  • If consideration is being given to expanding, diversifying or specialising the business, what training will be needed to ensure the effort is justified?

Tools and equipment planning

A planned investment in new tools or equipment will give the business a positive start to the new year – far better than last-minute, often rushed and poorly considered purchases just before the end of the financial year.

  • Meet with your accountant early in the year to explore the advantages of investing in new equipment to help reduce taxable income.
  • Engage with the workshop team to draw up a wish list of tools or equipment that would help workshop productivity, or save time.

  • Does equipment need updating, repairing, or replacing?

  • Is the workshop getting the expected results from recent tool purchases and should more be done to justify the expense during the coming year?

  • Is tool-specific training needed?

  • If consideration is being given to expanding, diversifying or specialising the business, will new tools or equipment be needed?

Information planning

It’s now almost impossible to efficiently diagnose and repair vehicles without access to data and information. The introduction of AASRA following the ‘right to repair’ campaign is opening up many new pathways to repair information. Along with tools and equipment, information and data acquisition needs to be a key topic at staff meetings.

  • Seek input from your team on the need for information or data subscriptions that will help the workshop perform and compete.
  • Signing up to AASRA would seem to be a no-brainer (

  • If programming is being considered as a workshop service, what equipment and training will be needed?

  • Have you implemented a data fee to cover increasing information costs?

Building planning

There’s no doubt that the eye appeal of your workshop buildings and surrounds can be a significant influence on potential customers and, therefore, a critical influence on business security.

  • Is your lease secure or close to renewal?
  • If there’s a plan to relocate, how will you minimise disruption?

  • Are repairs needed on the building or surrounds?

  • Does the office or workshop need a facelift?

  • Is new signage needed?

  • Perhaps it’s time to get rid of personal items clogging up valuable space?

  • Are insurance policies adequate?

Financial planning

There’s a lot more to understanding your financial situation than just checking the bank balance. The essentials of financial planning involve having accurate and up-to-date financial information on your desk every month. If this is not happening now, your first chore for the new year is to meet with your accountant or bookkeeper and get it happening.

  • Arrange a meeting with your accountant – or maybe you need to find a new accountant.
  • Do you review Profit and Loss statements every month?

  • Do sales and profit targets exist for the workshop?

  • Review and consider increasing the workshop’s hourly labour rate.

  • As costs of everything are rising, the pricing on parts will need to be adjusted.

  • Are there ongoing expenses that can be reduced or eliminated?

IT planning

Information technology is rarely thought of until something goes wrong. Reliance on IT systems to run the business is not a good idea unless there are processes in place for updating and maintenance. Don’t be fooled; the digital age can be a timewasting and frustrating minefield for the unwary or the unprepared.

  • Is the workshop point of sale system (POS) doing its job well, or is it time to trial new systems?
  • Is the POS being used to its full potential – perhaps further training would help?

  • Is there a need to integrate other IT platforms with your POS?

  • Is the phone system sufficient and efficient?

  • Does your website need a facelift? It has become standard that a website’s architecture and navigational processes be renewed at least every two years. Customers know when websites are stale.

  • Can customers access simple-tomanage online booking forms for vehicle repair or service?

  • Is your customer database secure?

Planning is vital for business succession to work.

This article was published 22/02/2023 and the content is current as at the date of publication.