Owners (and potential owners) think differently than employees. One key to selecting an appropriate successor is determining whether they have the necessary owner mindset.
Employees tend to think narrowly and usually focus on the task at hand and/or on their specific domain of responsibility (operations, finance, engineering, etc.). In contrast, a potential successor needs the ability to see the bigger picture and how his or her decisions will impact each aspect of the business.
Employees tend to think short-term. Their focus tends to be on current matters, current revenues, current expenses, and current profits. A successor, on the other hand, needs to be able to consider both the short-term and long-term success of the business.
Employees are typically just focused on doing good work. But a potential successor also needs to have vision, anticipate problems, develop strategies, and plan for growth.
And finally, employees know that if they make poor decisions and the business doesn’t do well, they can always find a new job elsewhere. Owners understand that failure is not an option. Generally, there is no “Plan B.” A potential successor needs to be passionate about the business and will be committed to its future success.
Some of these needed traits can be determined in advance of bringing a successor on board, but many of these traits can only be revealed over time.