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Thinking about succession - think about technology

What happens when the key owners are no longer in the business? So much knowledge has walked out the door. So, perhaps the most important action is to focus on your systems and processes. 

Thinking about succession - think about technology

by QuickBooks Australia

David Smith

What happens when the key owners are no longer in the business? So much knowledge has walked out the door. So, perhaps the most important action is to focus on your systems and processes. 


How to tech audit your firm 

Firstly, are your key systems and processes documented to ensure the business can continue to operate effectively. Not only does this enable smoother business transition, it is also key to enabling delegation.

Perhaps more importantly, have you future proofed your systems and processes? Many long-term business owners have stuck with their systems and processes long after their “use by” date. Simple things like moving to modern cloud-based accounting systems can drive efficiency and better record keeping. Even bigger wins can come from a cradle to grave re-engineering of business processes. Technology plays a critical part. Questions need to be asked:

  • How can we eliminate paper from our processes?
  • Are we making effective use of social media?
  • Are we using our website as a customer acquisition weapon?
  • Can machine learning eliminate processing effort? The best examples of this are the cloud accounting systems that remember how transactions are being coded and then automatically code subsequent similar transactions.
  • Are we making effective use of online video technology to enable us to engage more effectively with our customers and to facilitate access to workers who might work from home or other remote locations?
  • Have we considered robotic process automation? These systems can automate document preparation, read and respond to emails, interrogate databases and much, much more.
  • Can big data and data analytics unlock business insights to improve competitiveness and highlight new business opportunities?

How to attract a diverse workforce and keep them

Of course, a key aspect of succession is also to ensure that the business is a place that can attract and retain the next generation of talented workers. Technology again plays a key part. Generation Z will not be impressed by being locked into repetitive process execution.

They will be more interested in applying their talent to creativity, solving problems and engaging in a meaningful way with customers and their fellow employees.

Technology can be also used in training to make it more engaging. Use of game theory creates incentives to engage and retain new skills. Applicant tracking systems and performance management systems also enable better selection, goal reinforcement and skills development. Your successor may well be one of these Generation Z superstars, so enabling them with technology is so important.

Survival tactics

But perhaps the biggest sleeper that needs to be addressed is your core business. Is your core business designed to survive long into the future? You don’t want to be the video shop owner of the early 2000s. So, have you considered how technology may disrupt your business model?

If you’re a panel beater, have you considered how car automation may reduce accidents? If you supply planter boxes, think how by inserting a chip in the planter box you may be able to sell subscriptions to an online service that monitors the plant’s health and notifies when watering or fertiliser is needed. If you’re an optometrist, how might cheaper laser surgery eliminate glasses? If you’re a pathologist, consider how an addition to a smartphone might enable automated online pathology services. Everyone needs to take a step back and consider how technology may create new opportunities or threaten traditional business models.

How soon is now?

When do you start the process of considering business succession? The answer is that it should be an ongoing process. Whether or not succession is imminent, you need to consider the business threats, opportunities and how it can be improved. Sitting back on your laurels is no longer an option. It’s an exciting time with technology delivering all sorts of new opportunities to drive efficiency and growth. Take some time off with your team and develop your strategy for long-term success. Your legacy will be secure and your business value maximised, enabling an even better retirement.

Intuit’s QuickBooks Online Accountant offers accountants and bookkeepers a budgeting feature, helping them plan and make decisions for their own practice. Using this tool, accountants can project their own future, track their business growth, and ultimately increase their own worth. Download the app and start planning your future.

David Smith is the founder of Smithink, a consultancy which helps professional service firms improve their businesses and deal with their business succession. David has a special focus on technology and is a regular speaker on how businesses should position themselves to leverage emerging technologies.

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