What do you think? From emerging trends to the latest business principles, Furniture News is setting out to gauge the trade’s feelings on a variety of industry-specific topics. Today, we’re asking: How are you ensuring staff succession and skills transfer?

Andy Stockwell (Gardiner Haskins): Succession planning in small businesses is difficult, and is part of the reason so many small independent businesses eventually close down – there just isn’t anyone able or willing to take them on. It’s often down to the mindset of the leaders within the business, and the ambition and drive of the employees. I personally believe in giving responsibility to your staff. It engages them in the business, encourages growth and generation of ideas, motivates them to move forwards and grows confidence. Of course, some employees aren’t interested in progression, but those that are can be the driving force every business needs

Mike Murray (Land of Beds): Last year we introduced a graduate scheme, which enables our business to keep hiring fresh talent, whilst also giving graduates the chance to start their career

Mike Whitman (Iconography): Iconography has a habit of investing in young talent, providing them with training and development within the business. As a result, we’ve got incredibly low staff turnover and a very well-motivated team 

Paul Wray (Modern Outlook Furniture): Training is essential for staff in my business as there is no school or apprenticeship for this type of work – it’s on-the-job training from the bottom upwards

Peter Harding (Fairway Furniture): We’ve been actively working to ensure that no-one in the business is irreplaceable.  Everyone in key roles works with at least one other who shares their core skills and understanding, and as a senior management team we meet regularly to ensure that everyone is aware of what’s going on in all the other areas. We have a policy of looking to promote from within where individuals show the skills needed, which helps with maintaining the overall business’ performance

Royce Clark (Collier & Clark Group): Personally, I’ve found it difficult to delegate, but I’m happy to say that after 25 years in the trade I’m now finally doing that and allowing my team to take on tasks and ensuring they are done in the same way as I’ve been doing them (however, this is still very much work in progress …)

Steve Adams (Mattress Online): I have bolstered my management and leadership team significantly, to a point where all facets of the business are accountable to one of the senior management team. To support our growth there is a structured programme of training and development at all levels within the business. We are not only empowering the existing team with in-house training and knowledge sharing, but also developing new skill sets

Steve Pickering (Sussex Beds): Another great process we’ve implemented from the book Traction is accountability planning, which maps out the role or seat structure of your organisation. Each year this is updated and revised to align with our three-year growth plan. Mapping out the accountability charts allows us to prepare and insert shadow teams to transfer skill sets, readying individuals to take on additional responsibilities and eventually new roles

Wendy Martin Green (Peter Green Furnishers): We like to employ new staff with a diverse skill set so our team that can cover each other if needed. We’ve worked with the sales team, ensuring everyone can sell everything, even if it’s not their area of expertise. We’ve even trained a few of our office staff to step forward in the event that we’ve not got enough cover on the shop floor at busier times. In the case of management, we’re not big enough to have two of anything, but we work so closely that we can all quite easily cover for each other. Within the management team we have a good idea of who could replace who if needed. If you’re asking who would replace me, that’s a different question. The business can work very well without me right now, and I have a daughter who has expressed an interest in becoming the figurehead in the future …

Huw Williams (Toons Furnishers): We are actively encouraging younger staff within the business to develop themselves with the view to taking the reins in the future as us older people retire. We take them out on buying trips  and give them the opportunity to make choices about which ranges we stock and how it is displayed

This article featured in the August 2022 edition of Furniture News magazine.