Take Charge of Succession Planning

4 Ways To Prepare Your Child To Become Your Successor
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When working every day to run and build your business, it can be difficult to imagine your business without you and you without your business. Yet at some point, owners do begin to think about whether and how their businesses will continue after they leave and move on to their Next Adventures™. We know that the process of business succession planning raises a ton of questions in owners’ minds, so our job as transition strategists is to help owners take charge of business succession planning and put them on track to a successful transition of their companies to successors.

The Right Time to Create a Business Succession Plan

If you have no plans to leave your business any time soon, succession planning may seem irrelevant to you. From long experience, however, we know that owners who decide to take charge of business succession planning well in advance of their business exits, exponentially increase the odds of successfully executing their plans. We work with owners every day to build foundations for their companies to thrive for generations to come even though they are years away from handing over the reins of their companies to successors.

How Not to Take Charge of Business Succession Planning

If you’ve seen the HBO series “Succession,” you know how many train wrecks occur when no one takes charge of succession planning. If you haven’t seen the series, it focuses on relationships: father / founder / CEO vs. his adult children; children with one another; children vs. stepparent; nuclear family members vs. extended family members; shareholders vs. management; and management vs. family members. There’s enough drama in the constantly changing alliances and Machiavellian maneuvers to entertain nearly 7 million viewers for three seasons with another in production.

The characters’ take-no-prisoners approach to retaining or taking control of a publicly traded media conglomerate may be extreme, but they illustrate just how well the seven principles we use to create succession plans keep our clients (and their families) from experiencing anything even close to “Succession”-level carnage.

The Transition Strategists’ Seven Principles of Succession Planning

From our experience helping owners navigate successful journeys from ownership to enjoying exciting next adventures, we developed seven guiding principles.

Principle No. 1: Put Relationships First.

We have never worked (nor would we ever!) with owners like the fictitious Logan Roy who will sacrifice any relationship to satisfy their maniacal desire for absolute control. Instead, our clients recognize that if a business transition does not protect or enhance the relationships with the people who are important to them, that transition is a failure. Crafting successful succession plans isn’t easy, but it is possible.

Principle No. 2: You Are In Charge of Your Journey.

CEO Logan Roy is in charge of his company (spoiler alert: except when recovering from health issues), but he’s hardly in charge of his business succession plan. To be generous, that’s not really his fault since it’s impossible to take charge of a plan that doesn’t exist!

Some owners are not eager to jump into succession planning because they don’t have a clear picture of the road ahead. That’s normal, but we remind owners that planning to transition ownership is a privilege only owners of successful companies enjoy. Our clients tell us that creating succession plans that generate successful outcomes for their companies, families, successors, and themselves is the achievement of a lifetime.

Principle No. 3: No Transition is Perfect

No business transition—and that includes those within families—is perfect. Intrinsic to every transition are multiple dilemmas: The resolution to one can affect others and choosing one option over another can produce outcomes we cannot anticipate. That’s one of the reasons we ask owners to identify their boundaries (or what we call Deal Breakers) at the outset of the transition planning process.

Principle No. 4: It’s Your Next Adventure: Go for it!

Logan Roy is a one-dimensional character in the TV series: Succession, who cannot imagine a life in which he is not the CEO of Waystar Royco. We encourage owners to see that succession planning includes planning for an exciting new phase of their lives. When owners dream big, open themselves up to abundance and devote time and energy to what comes next, they continue to live fulfilling and wonderful lives.

Principle No. 5:  Choose Your Destination with Intention.

It makes great viewing to watch Logan Roy respond to events that result from the total absence of a succession plan. In real life, however, it’s not at all fun to put effort into extinguishing completely avoidable succession fires. Owners who take charge of succession planning determine what they want the transfer of their companies to accomplish for themselves, their families, successors, and companies.

Principle No. 6: Step Away from Mutual Dependency.

Nothing happens at Waystar Royco without Logan Roy’s knowledge and direction. The man and the company are so dependent on each other that it’s impossible to imagine the company succeeding without Roy and Roy being successful without this company. Effective succession planning includes creating a game plan to end any mutual dependency.

Principle No. 7: A Transition Roadmap is Indispensable.

Logan Roy operates without a succession plan. He can do that because he only plays a CEO on TV. You are a CEO in the real world and the odds of a successful transfer aren’t great unless you create a Roadmap to keep you moving forward in your transition journey, identify alternate routes when you run into roadblocks and keep all parties accountable when circumstances change. One hundred percent of the owners who have completed our Transition Roadmap Developer have successfully transferred their companies to successors.

The HBO TV series “Succession” makes for great entertainment. It’s extreme in every way possible, but to us it’s one of the saddest examples of an owner’s failure to take responsibility for succession planning.

If you haven’t yet started to plan for your future and the future of your business without you, now is the perfect moment. The more time you give yourself to create a plan, the more options you have and the greater the likelihood for success.

We’d love to show you how to create a winning plan for your business and eliminate any anxiety you may have about the future of your company. We offer a free consultation to owners who want to learn more without the pressure of commitment. Give us a call and let’s talk about your situation.

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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