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No one learns how to run an incubation program in a day, yet many incubators fail to develop formal succession plans for staff or senior management. Seasoned incubation professionals weigh in on the practices they follow to ensure the programs they've built will continue to prosper once they move on.

Succession planning for incubator staff and management

by Dinah Adkins

December 2011

A quick, albeit unscientific, review of business incubator managers on NBIA's Member Listserv suggests few CEOs have given much thought to succession planning for top management. And yet, research is unanimous that program success – and robust outcomes, such as firm survival and job creation – depend on hiring and retaining exceptional leadership.

Virtually all experienced industry CEOs have seen formerly topflight incubators lose vitality and even close when new hires failed. Thus, careful attention to succession issues is necessary to ensure survival of well-functioning programs.

Few are more concerned about these issues than longtime or founding managers who have grown their programs from the ground up. "I am wrestling with this issue now," says Charlie D'Agostino, founder in 1989 of the Louisiana Business & Technology Center in Baton Rouge, La. "Quite frankly, based on fiascos I have seen, we're going to try to do better," says Ed Hobbs, president and CEO since 1998 of the Toronto Business Development Centre in Toronto. Both plan eventually to select and train their successors while they still head up their programs. In Detroit, former executive director of Wayne State University's TechTown, Randal Charlton, acted on that idea, handing off selected duties to a chosen successor for more than a year. Charlton retired Oct. 31 to join BOOM! The New Economy, a new initiative supporting baby boomer entrepreneurs.

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Keywords: Documents- incubator, Effective communication, Exit policy, Incubator management – general, Leadership development, Management team building/Compensation, Professional development-general

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