Replacing Yourself

Preserve your legacy by ensuring that your successor has what it takes to lead.

As the executive of a small association, you handle everything. And as the person running the show, you’ve worked long, hard hours to bring the association to where it is now. In the event you are suddenly out of the picture, you don’t want to lose everything you’ve worked so hard to accomplish, do you?

Many people think succession planning is only for planned departures. But there is also the possibility of an unplanned departure. In the event something unexpected happens, a succession plan functions as a business continuity plan that not only preserves the association’s viability through a transition, but also maintains your legacy.

When an AE leaves, a lot of institutional knowledge leaves with that person. A business continuity or succession plan should consider what someone else would need to know when stepping into the role, and how to find that information without asking a lot of questions or reinventing the wheel. This means every process and procedure should be documented in an easily accessible format.

Approach documentation step by step in order to create a guide that allows someone who has never done some aspects of your job before to do them. Given everything you do, this could be a daunting task.

Start by writing down each step of a single aspect of your job. Include a brief description of the overall purpose and goal of the process—the “why” behind the task. A helpful resource is the AE Local Operational Procedures Grid available at (Find it under Retirement and Succession Planning Resources for AEs.)

You should also maintain an up-to-date directory of vendors and their contact information, as well as information regarding the association’s various bank and credit card accounts. Although IT professionals never recommend writing down passwords, you should have a way for someone else to access your systems. Talk with IT to determine a process for the association president to access systems, and include that information in your documentation.

Hiring the New You

Once you’ve covered the processes and procedures of your job, the next step is to provide your board of directors with resources. Depending on your board, members may or may not have the knowledge or experience to hire a new executive. Do they understand the qualities that make for a successful AE? Is the position description up to date? Do board members know how to screen résumés and the types of questions to ask? Do they know the legal ramifications involved in an executive search?

Put succession planning on the board agenda annually so members are informed about what to do. In the event of your departure, the board will need to put a search committee in place, and its members should have some previous experience in hiring. They should also be familiar with market-based compensation, background checks, and employment agreements.

Another resource that should be included in a succession plan is a list of executive search consultants. Even if search committee members have hired before, they might not want to conduct a search themselves. The National Association of REALTORS®’ Strategic Association Management team is a great resource for finding reliable consultants; committee alignment is easier to achieve when working with a skilled consultant.

The executive search committee must not rush the hiring process. An AE has a unique skill set, and volunteer leaders should understand that it will take time to find a replacement in the case of an unplanned departure. Many variables will factor into the search.

To ensure that the right person is in place after your tenure, you can tap for a number of resources to assist with succession planning and strategic association management. Search for “Retirement and Succession Planning Resources for AEs” and “Strategic Association Management.” For additional information and resources, contact me at or 312-329-8311.


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