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The crucial role succession planning plays in business growth

In the ever-changing landscape of the propane, oil and energy industry, effective succession planning is crucial, especially if your company is focused on growth through acquisitions. While often associated with exiting or retiring, succession planning is a multifaceted strategy that goes beyond departure. It is the key to unlocking sustainable growth, seamlessly integrating acquisitions into your business model, maximizing return on investment and fostering prosperity within your organization.

In a highly competitive market, business growth is essential because if you’re not growing, your competitors are gaining market share. This highlights the importance of growth in overcoming challenges and uncertainties to achieve your future vision.

Succession Planning Beyond the Exit

Traditionally, owners in the fuel industry have viewed succession planning as a means to transfer leadership and ownership when current leaders exit the business. However, this perspective fails to recognize the broader benefits that robust succession strategies can provide. A more effective approach is to see succession planning as the vehicle to transition your business from point A to point B. This transition may involve developing strategies to scale your business and effectively support growth in a larger service area. It could also entail incorporating technology and/or strategies to attract and retain top talent as your team needs to expand.


Additionally, transitioning your business may involve acquiring businesses for diversification, which can help mitigate the impact of seasonality and regulatory changes. While exit planning focuses solely on leaving the business through sale or transfer, succession planning encompasses much more. It is a strategic approach that envisions your business’s long-term sustainability and success.

4 Keys to the Growth-Oriented Succession Planning Approach

1. Financial Resilience

While growth can be exciting, it is important to consider financial stability and resilience to navigate the inevitable challenges of expansion. Whether the growth occurs internally by capturing more market share or externally through acquisitions, the business will inevitably experience some growth pains.

When aiming to expand internally by gaining a larger market share, scaling a business involves meticulous planning and training. However, this growth process often leads to temporary disruptions that can impact the organization’s overall performance. Similarly, integrating a newly acquired business presents its own set of challenges. During this transitional phase, performance tends to decline as new team members are brought on board, technology is integrated and customers acquaint themselves with the new entity.

In light of these challenges, it becomes imperative for businesses to have a strong financial position to weather the storm of transition. Having a solid financial foundation provides the necessary resources to overcome the short-term drop in performance. It ensures the business can successfully integrate and capitalize on the newly acquired assets.

Furthermore, clear and efficient processes and procedures are essential for a successful growth succession strategy. Establishing streamlined workflows, documenting best practices, and ensuring effective communication channels will help minimize disruptions during the scaling or acquisition process. With a well-defined framework, propane dealers can navigate the challenges more efficiently and maintain a higher level of performance throughout the growth journey.

2. Strategic Planning

Growth-oriented succession planning is a crucial element for success in the propane and energy industry. It requires a forward-thinking approach that goes beyond the boundaries of the business today. By developing a strategic plan that assesses the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of the company through a SWOT analysis, key leaders can engage in creative problem-solving. This enables them to identify strategies for capitalizing on strengths and opportunities while addressing and overcoming weaknesses and threats.

Through comprehensive discussions, the owner and key leaders are empowered to create effective strategies for market expansion, diversification and exploring new opportunities within the propane, oil and energy sector. The resulting action agenda, which is the outcome of the strategic planning process, serves as a guiding document that aligns the organization’s goals and identifies the necessary resources to achieve the agreed-upon three-to-five-year objectives. These resources may include capital development, leadership/talent bench strength, technology or facility improvements.

One valuable addition to this strategic plan is the inclusion of a buy box. The buy box clearly defines the types of companies the organization is interested in purchasing, considering factors such as size, service offerings, location and more. By establishing this framework, distractions are minimized, and the entire team can focus on the end goal.

3. Defined Integration Process

In the energy space, propane dealers and owners understand the importance of growth, especially through acquisitions. However, integrating new businesses and teams into your existing culture can be a challenging and risky endeavor. Here are some key strategies for a successful integration:

  • Clearly define your mission, vision and values: Before integrating a new business or team, it is crucial to have a clearly defined mission, vision and set of values for your company. This will provide a solid foundation and ensure everyone is aligned with the company’s goals and expectations. Without a clear direction, chaos can arise, with each individual defining their own objectives.
  • Develop a playbook: Before acquiring new businesses, it is crucial to create a comprehensive playbook that outlines the integration process. This playbook should encompass detailed plans for seamlessly assimilating new employees into your culture, integrating customers, and incorporating operational processes and procedures from the acquired business into your existing culture. By having a well-thought-out playbook in place, you can minimize the transition period and provide clear direction from day one.
  • Communicate early and often: Communication is key during the integration process. It is important to clearly communicate the vision, goals and expectations to both your existing team and the new team or business being integrated. Regular updates and open lines of communication will help to align everyone involved and address any of the concerns or questions that may arise. Encourage collaboration: Integrating new businesses and teams requires a collaborative mindset.
  • Encourage collaboration and teamwork among your employees, both old and new. This will help to create a sense of unity and build trust among team members, which is essential for a successful integration.
  • Provide training and support: When integrating new businesses or teams, it is crucial to provide the necessary training and support. This may include onboarding programs, mentorship opportunities, and access to resources and tools. Ensuring that everyone has the knowledge and skills required to succeed will contribute to a smooth integration process.
  • Monitor and evaluate progress: Throughout the integration process, it is important to monitor and evaluate the progress being made. This will help you identify any challenges or areas that require additional attention. Regular check-ins and feedback sessions will allow you to address any issues promptly and make necessary adjustments to ensure a successful integration.

Remember, integrating new businesses and teams into your existing culture is not a one-time event but an ongoing process. By following these strategies and investing time and effort into the integration process, you can ensure a seamless transition and set your company up for long-term success.

4. Talent Development & Retention

Attracting and retaining talent is crucial for business success. Without a dedicated workforce, your company would simply be a building with some trucks. As your propane, fuel, home services or energy business expands, it becomes even more imperative to reinforce your mission, vision and values.

A strong culture serves as a magnet for top talent, as word spreads within the communities you serve. Happy employees often result in satisfied customers. Conversely, organizations with average or below-average cultures face challenges in hiring and retaining personnel. High-performance cultures prioritize development, provide opportunities, foster respect and encourage teamwork.

In the propane, oil and energy business, where the landscape is shaped by technological advancements, regulatory changes and market fluctuations, succession planning is not just about exit strategies, but a strategic imperative for long-term success. Embracing a growth-oriented approach to succession planning empowers your organization to thrive in uncertainty and adversity. You can transform your vision into a lasting reality for your business by ensuring financial resilience, expanding strategically, defining integration processes and nurturing talent.

Succession planning is not just about leaving the business; it is about securing its future and ensuring it continues to flourish in the years to come.

Kendall Rawls knows and understands the challenges that impact the success of a family-owned business. Her unique perspective comes not only from her educational background but, more importantly, from her experience as a second-generation family member employee of The Rawls Group — Business Succession Planners. For more information, visit or email


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