Posted: 22nd July 2015

Within our firms we all have star players. Only by understanding the strength and depth of our squad can we truly understand the level of residual risk to the business if we were to lose key players.

Losing players who lead the line for our organisation often leads to the loss of opportunity. Losing players within the second line of defence, leaves us exposed to risk and potential humiliation at the hands of the Regulator. The recent story of Southampton Football Club illustrates what I mean.

At the start of the 2013 / 14 season, Southampton FC stood out as surprise contenders. With its blend of home grown rising stars and experienced heads, the season looked bright. However, following its humiliation at the hands of Manchester City, it lost two key players.  Its fragility was exposed for all to see.

Through the loss of its best defender, it found itself exposed time and time again. Without its key man going forward, it had little in the locker to take the game to the opposition. So what was the root cause of the footballing failure? Southampton FC clearly lacked an appreciation of key man dependency, or the need for succession planning to mitigate the inherent risk.

Ahead of the 2014 / 15 season Southampton FC lost almost half of its first team, CEO and Manager. To fans and critics alike, the end appeared to be nigh. However, as an organisation it had learnt what needed to be done. Southampton FC had developed the ‘Southampton Way’ which includes a detailed succession plan with potential replacements for every role within the club.

This plan allowed them to recruit replacement players and staff quickly to avert crisis and ensure business as usual was maintained. Through its proactive approach, the club reduced the operational risk faced through the loss of key personnel. In the end, Southampton defied all expectations - finishing the season in seventh place, securing Europa League qualification, and manager Ronald Koeman being picked as Sky Sports manager of the year.

Gaps appear in every team from time to time. Securing added capacity in times of need can make all the difference. Again Southampton FC has excelled in this through the use of the loan market – meeting a need today, without the risk of rushed permanent recruitment.

Successful firms, like football clubs, are likely to be those with access to the best subs bench to provide for temporary or specialist support to meet both capacity and capability shortfalls as and when required. How prepared are you? Look to your star players and work out how you’ll be implementing your own succession plan.

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