News of Donna Karan’s decision to step down from her role at the helm of Donna Karan International, the brand built on her signature style, prompted me to think about the importance of succession planning. In a typical fashion house, there is often a direct connection between the name, identity, and style of a designer and the brand he or she builds – think Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Ralph Lauren, and Donna Karan. Karan’s contributions to fashion redefined the way working women dress. But what happens when the individual whose very identity provides the foundation for the house and brand decides to retire or take a less active role? How is future continuity assured? How is it achieved?

Thoughtful succession planning at each stage of growth is the best answer to these questions. As with tackling most business and legal issues, time and money spent on proactive planning is well worth the peace of mind gained when the time for transition comes.