Leading Your Transition

Monday, September 23 2019

I have an important question:  If you don’t plan and lead the transition of your business who will?

I’ve been beating this drum for several years and sometimes it feels futile. The statistics and the reality of your image in the mirror should inform you that imminent change is required, but too many business owners continue to act as if they will live forever. Of course, we know this isn’t true, however, our brains have an amazing ability to rationalize. I have spoken to owners in their seventies who think it’s too early to plan their retirement and the transition of their business.

Recently I spoke on the topic of succession planning and transition to an association of business owners. Seventy-five percent of conference attendees had grey hair, but only a small number participated in this discussion. What happened to the rest?

It’s not a surprise. It’s not easy and it’s an uncomfortable topic. It is also a lot of work at a time when you are already very busy. Opening that can of worms requires you to look honestly and frankly at a future without your business. It means you need to ask some tough questions. Questions like:

  • Are my kids up to the challenge of running the business?
  • How do I treat them fairly if one wants to and another doesn’t?
  • Would I (and they) be better selling to someone else?
  • How do I broach the subject with my management team?
  • How do I tell my customers?
  • What will I do with myself? My business is my life.
  • How do I make the business look attractive to a buyer?
  • What’s it worth? Will that be enough to enable me to retire?
  • Would I be better off just running it a few more years and taking more cash out of the business? Then I can just shut it down. But then what happens to my employees?

So, I understand. It’s not easy. It’s painful. It’s a lot of work and you don’t have much extra time on your hands. But if you don’t do it, if you don’t take the initiative and lead the charge, who the heck do you think will? Are you prepared for the negative consequences of being put in a position in which you have no choice? If you consider yourself to be a leader, then lead. It is your responsibility to lead the change process. And once you do, one step at a time, you’ll find it isn’t that tough and the payoff will be worth it.