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Are You Falling Victim to the "Can't Leave" Syndrome?

In August of 1972, the celebrated childrens’ author Dr. Seuss addressed the issue of succession planning.  His chief character in the book, “Marvin K. Mooney – Will You Please Go Now!” just couldn’t bring himself to get out of the way and let someone else take center stage.  Almost two years later, in July of 1974, Dr. Seuss changed his main character’s name to Richard M. Nixon and sent his revised book to columnist Art Buchwald.  Buchwald received permission to publish the revised lyrics; and nine days later, on August 8, Richard M. Nixon went.

Now this isn’t a political column about the first president in history to resign.  It is, however, somewhat of an editorial on knowing when to leave and having the grace and good sense to do so.  Think about the people in sports, business, etc who stayed long after their careers had peaked and their ability to perform at a world class level had eclipsed.  Why do people with great talent and skill fall into the Marvin K. Mooney trap? 

Well, there could be several justifiable reasons for staying around; and then are some reasons that are less so.  Here are some of the more commonly given reasons:  

  1. I do not have an identifiable capable, competent, and committed family successor ready to take my place.

  2. I do not have sufficient management talent within the organization to build a succession bridge to gap the development time required for a family successor.

  3. I do not have sufficient personal wealth separate from the business to maintain the lifestyle I have come to enjoy.

  4. I still like and enjoy what I do; and I am still good at it.

  5. No one else understands the business like I do.

  6. What else would I do?

The list is not exhaustive; but for every reason there is an opportunity to plan your way out of the business.  It is possible to prepare yourself and the business for your departure.  The best time to have started for many business owners was ten years ago. The next best time to plan your exit (or escape) from the business is today. 

If you fall into the “what else would I do?” category, then you have become the victim of your own success.  A lot of business owners, executives, and their respective peer groups become what they do. When that happens, their deepest concern is a thought process that takes them down this road:  “If I am what I do, what will happen to me when I don’t?” 

 Even the “what else would I do?” reason has a way out.  Next time, we’ll give you some practical ideas on how to avoid becoming the Marvin K. Mooney of your own organization.


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