Getting Unstuck in Business Transitions

Getting Unstuck in Business Transitions - The Transition Strategists
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I’ve written about the three primary reasons owners get unstuck and take the leap into their business transition journeys: 1) a reckoning with mortality, 2) the achievement of a goal or 3) a reaction to events outside the business. In this article, I share four steps to getting unstuck in business transitions using, as an example, an owner who experienced a death in the family.

Liza” the young daughter of one of our clients, “Simon,” died after a tragic climbing accident. This loss made a permanent mark on Simon, his wife and their family. For Simon, however, Liza’s death poured fuel on a question that had been smoldering in his brain ever since his youngest child started school: How could he better balance his work and home lives so he could spend more time with his family? Liza’s death made it crystal clear to Simon that he had to find an answer to this question.

Simon was stuck, but he didn’t stay stuck. Instead, he reached out because he was determined to create a new era for himself—and by extension his company—and asked us to help him bring that era to life.

Four Steps to Getting Unstuck in Business Transitions

In our conversations with Simon over the next several months, we worked with him through our four steps to getting unstuck in business transitions.

Step 1:  Understand why you want to make a change.

The death of Simon’s daughter shook up his priority lists as a spouse, father and business owner, and carpe diem pulsed in every fiber of his being. Some owners think about change because they are tired, have become bored, want to start a new venture, or want to turn the reins over to the next generation.

Step 2:  Look to the horizon and establish a destination.

Rather than act, some people hope for the best instead. Simon and his wife wanted a new way of being and were ready to act. But before they could take action, we asked them to answer important questions about their personal and business lives.

  • How much time do you want to spend with each other and with your children?
  • What activities have you put off or always dreamed of?
  • How active does Simon want to be in his company, and for how long?
  • Is it financially possible for Simon to leave? If not, when could it be possible?
  • Does Simon have an ideal successor in mind?
  • What outcomes will you not sacrifice? These “deal breakers” might include having a certain amount of money in the bank or share of the market, keeping the company in the community, or giving your brother a shot at leadership.

We ask these questions (and more) to all owners before they begin to chart their business transition journeys. By painting a clear picture of the life owners want after they transition their businesses (their Next Adventures™), they gain confidence in their ability to achieve their objectives and the inspiration to do the work involved in transitioning a business.

Step 3:  Choose a path.

Once owners develop a clear vision of their destinations, we can compare the possible routes they could take, including transitions to a family member (usually an adult child), a business partner, one or more key employees, and a sale to an outside third party. We then line up an owner’s list of objectives against each path to identify which meets most of the objectives and violates no deal breakers.

Step 4:  Begin the journey.

Getting stuck happens. It happens to some owners when they just think about their one-day business transitions, to other owners when someone in their life dies and to others who want to redesign their involvement in their companies. While getting stuck is common, staying stuck carries a high price. As transition guides, we know that the more time you give yourself to plan and take your transition journey, the more options you have at the outset and when (not if) something doesn’t go as planned.

If, for whatever reason, you are stuck and want to talk about getting unstuck, let’s talk. Let’s put you on the road to a successful transition.

Elizabeth Ledoux is a co-author of the award-winning It’s A Journey: The MUST-HAVE Roadmap to Successful Succession Planning,  as well as Accelerate Your Entrepreneurial Flight and Understanding the Growth of the Entrepreneur. She frequently speaks to organizations and business owners about challenges and opportunities in private and family business transitions, business and individual growth, and the business succession journey.


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