Why Nigeria’s Agencies Should Have A Relook At Succession Planning Strategy

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By Tunji Faleye

Recent investigations have revealed that many business organisations in Nigeria have relegated to the background succession planning strategy which is the fulcrum of successful transition in any business organisation. Clearly, the lackluster attitude of business owners to this strategy has continued to raise serious concern about the strength and future of their businesses. Unfortunately, examples of such organisations also abound in the Nigeria’s advertising business and Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) industry which are experiencing slow growth rate and stand the risk of being wind-swept at the slightest confrontation with crises.

While succession plan is the systematic process of recognising and creating future leaders who are able to take the position of the old ones when they leave the organisation due to transfer, termination, retirement, promotion, resignation or death, few agencies in Nigeria can receive pass mark in this aspect.

Succession In Agency Business

Among few agencies or groups that have succession planning strategies in place is Insight Redefini, a leading group in the IMC industry in Nigeria whose contributions remain immeasurable and incomputable to the growth of the industry. The group is an amalgam of agencies cutting across creative, public relations, Out-of-Home, media independent, experiential marketing and digital, manned by tested professionals whose records have remained relevant in the IMC industry till date.

Insight was founded by Biodun Shobanjo in 1978 and started operation in 1980. Since it opened shop, the agency has continued to wax stronger with unrivalled creative innovations being deployed to build brands. It is interesting to note that Insight Redefini was carved out of Troyka, a house built by talent and audacity when Publicis approached the management to have stake in the company. Eventually the move materialised and publicis bought into 25 per cent of Insight Redefini.

Obviously, while many agencies and groups in the industry still have poor succession plan, Insight Redifini is an example of the group with a fair record of succession. Essentially, the agency has set a standard in this direction with the smooth-sailing change of baton from one generation to the other. For instance, the agency has transited from ownership when Biodun Shobanjo held sway to another line of ownership when Jimi Awosika was in charge of Insight. The third succession is the transition of the group from ownership to managers starting from the time Feyi Olubodun was the managing director of Insight Publicis (left) and Dr Ken Onyeali-Ikpe as the Chief Executive Officer of Insight Redefini. Interestingly, one of the ways Insight Redefini has been preparing for succession is by continually shedding itself of redundant staff in the systems in the face of challenging unsustainable bogus workforce.

In a chart with Brand Communicator not quite long, Dr Ken Onyeali-Ikpe said the partnership with Publicis is to activate a dominant machine that will take advertising to a level where Africans don’t even dream of. “The partnership with the Publicis is supposed to energise the system, create competence, elevates knowledge and skills sets in our group. All members of the communication company have gone through immersion in the last few years and we have change programme going on,” he said.

Some of the change programme was the posting of the Executive Creative Director of Insight, Chima Okenimkpe to Publicis Africa as the Executive Creative Director working out of Accra, Ghana and Dr Tayo Oyedeji, former managing director of Media Perspectives who was elevated to the position of Managing Director, Starcom Mediavest, South Africa and Head, Publicis Media Africa Johannesburg, South Africa. Dr Tayo left the service of the Group since 2017.

Prior to this, Dr Tayo was promoted to head Media Perspectives after Emeka Okeke left the service of the Group to set up Media Fuse. Few years later and with the exit of Dr Tayo from Media Perspectives, the baton of leadership fell on Jude Odia who was elevated to the position of Chief Operating Officer of the subsidiary and later saddled with the responsibilities to paddle the ship of one of the foremost media buying agencies in the country as managing director.

Another example of smooth transition was when Bolaji Okusaga left QuadrantMSL to form Precise and was replaced by Uche Ajene from the same Troyka Holdings. Also, Anurika Azubuike was recently announced by Insight Redefini to serve as Business Lead at QuadrantMSL after Ajene left the PR agency.

Industry watcher said, the smooth sailing of replacement plan in the group has shown clearly that the management has put in place replacement mechanism for any of its top management staff who is relieved of his/her appointment or chooses to leave for personal reasons.

Another typical example of an agencies owner who takes succession plan seriously in the integrated marketing communications industry is George Thorpe. Over the years, Thorpe has groomed capable hands to man his agencies in different subsectors of IMC, little wonder that Media Reach OMD, TBWA\Concept Nigeria, Triple A Outdoors Nigeria, Phd Nigeria, Tequila Nigeria Limited and others have remained competitive in the nation’s IMC industry. The agencies also have in place a comprehensive process by which they nurture their employees for managerial positions by assigning them to be on special projects, team leadership roles, and enable them to go for both internal and external training and development opportunities. 

In a chat with Thorpe in Lagos he said, “What I can share is that I successfully transited and it was a bit easier for me because I didn’t quite locate in the agency. This was because I was the sponsor, financial of the agency. I never saw myself as an agency person. What we did was to write business plan and look for somebody to realise our ambition in respect of our agency business and locate the person in the leadership position from day one and give him our support that he requires.”

Essence of Succession Planning Strategies

While effective, proactive succession planning strategy leaves organisation well prepared for all contingencies and builds bench strength, the concept is still strange to some agencies.

Basically, why some agencies have continued to thrive is because of the founder’s foresight towards proper succession planning strategies. Expert say, “Founders who put a strong succession planning process in place within their business allow the business to thrive, scale and grow, irrespective of the individual at the helm of affairs so long as they have the right vision and leadership skills. A successor is not only one who takes over from another, but one who has the vision and passion to keep the business thriving long after the founder is gone; ones who would run the business with the same laser-like focus as they would if owned the business themselves. There are many examples of founders who have retired and their businesses continue to thrive, irrespective.”

However, aside these two groups and few others who have taken succession plan in their agencies seriously, many other agencies are still toying with one of the most surviving business strategies. Sadly, investigations have revealed that lack of succession planning strategies has continued to weaken many agencies, hence, the long-term goals of such agencies suffer.

Similarly, analysts say many agencies have also failed to focus resources on key employee retention, adding that the current incessant sack in the industry, if not addressed, will further continue to hamper the growth of agency business in the country. 

Analysts believe that with the level of job insecurity in the agency today, it is very difficult for employees to show commitment and work tirelessly for the growth of the business. They say there is nothing as debilitating as the exit of experienced staff from agencies after being sacked by agency owners who derive joy in sending people out of the system inconsiderably. They belief that the issue of job insecurity should be taken with all seriousness and need urgent attention of all stakeholders to address such anomaly to protect employees in the industry. 

Conclusion

Analysts are of the opinion that agency business can only grow when there is ideal succession planning strategy that involves the participation of the top management, a thorough review of the plan developed. They believe that agency owners should desist from taking hasty decision rather, they should be considerate enough before disengaging any employee within the system.

Experts say while it is also imperative for these agencies to learn from others that have succession planning strategies in place, there must also be the will to implement it in their various agencies. To them, the way forward for agencies that are in this category rests on three words; Strategy, Structure and System. According to them, Strategy determines how the company intends to do business in the marketplace. Structure organises the company in pursuit of its already determined strategic objective, while system oils the engine of operation in ensuring that process are followed for efficiency and effectiveness. Agencies must continually ask themselves if where they are now is in line with their ambition and where they want to go.

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