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Wyoming Business Tips for Jan. 25-31

January 16, 2015

A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.

By Mike Lambert, Wyoming Entrepreneur Market Research Center manager

“I have many baby boomer employees who are getting ready to retire. How do I replace their expertise?” Fred, Gillette

You are facing something that is hitting all types of businesses, from mom and pop shops, to state government to Fortune 500 companies. Baby boomers are currently at or nearing retirement age, and companies across the nation are facing issues about how to replace all of the expertise that will soon be leaving.

The problem is that many times these are the folks who are the experts at your business. They know your customers and have relationships with vendors. These are the men and women who make things run properly. Replacing them can leave critical jobs in the hands of someone without the depth of experience and knowledge of your company that are making you a success now.

What to do? There are some good things to consider:

First, many employees approaching retirement are willing to help pass on their skills to a future replacement. Make sure that you take advantage of this, because you don’t want to realize at the retirement party that the person you have slotted for that key job doesn’t know a thing about it.

Secondly, many baby boomers are willing to continue to work on a part-time, consultant basis.

Third, once you have ensured that your legacy knowledge is passed on and retained, having new blood may not be a bad thing. There may be new methods and skills that you can add that will help keep the business successful into the future.

However, even if you can find a way to retain or transfer critical knowledge, what about leadership? If you have a senior leadership person getting ready to retire, you need to be thinking about succession. Is there someone ready to step into the retiree’s shoes? If not, planning is needed immediately.

Take a look at your current staff. If no one stands out, start looking for outside alternatives. Make sure that you understand the market, and if you need to hire new leadership, ensure that your salary and benefits are competitive and that your company is in the best possible shape. Once you have a replacement in place, do not forget point two earlier: Experienced individuals moving into retirement make great coaches. Take advantage of them.

The key in handling the baby boomer retirement wave is to recognize that it is coming and make reasonable plans to handle it.

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments are available at http://wyen.biz/blog1/.

The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email wsbdc@uwyo.edu or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.


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