I was working with a business owner, John, who was in the process of transitioning management and leadership responsibilities of the business over to a family member. At one point in the process, John asked,

“When Tim takes over my role, what do I do?”

For most business owners, they will develop an exit strategy that unfolds gradually over time. In other words, there will not be a “cold turkey” exit from the business. Developing a strategy that allows a gradual exit rather than a flip of the switch event provides you an opportunity to expand your vision about your future role in the company and identify a new purpose outside of the business. John, had not provided himself that opportunity and felt a little threatened by the fact that Tim would be taking over his role, leaving him feeling “sent out to pasture.”

In addressing your exit strategy, it is important that you understand that you are not losing or giving up your importance to the success of the company, you are simply changing roles. and in fact taking on an even more important role in the company. For example, if you are in an operations role and actively involved in day-to-day management, you will need to delegate tactical responsibilities to your successor and begin thinking of the business more strategically.

Defining roles and responsibilities and learning how to take on a new role as a strategic thinker who is working “on” the business not “in” it, is a critical aspect of developing an effective exit strategy and a new role in which you will have the opportunity to fill. Understanding the opportunities to grow the business that addressing your exit strategy will offer will alleviate your fear of uncertainty about the future.

Perhaps more importantly, is the emotional ability to withdraw which relies upon a balanced perspective to life. Addressing what may fill your time as you step away from day to day responsibilities requires you to have an understanding that the business is not the ultimate fulfillment of life’s purpose, “when you are what you do, when you don’t, you aren’t.”

Business owners must recognize that they have a stewardship responsibility to develop a life apart from the business in order to empower the emotional ability to turn the business over to capable successors. Even though your business may have served as a hobby or social center, you need to have an identity apart from your business.

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