Today, let’s talk about how you set the stage for a graceful and timely exit.  Depending upon your disposition of the business – sale, family transfer, outside management – some of the steps listed below may take anywhere from a few years to a couple of decades to implement effectively.  So, the sooner you begin this process, the sooner you will be able to begin climbing other mountains. 

1. Decide what event(s) will trigger your decision to begin formal succession planning.  The triggering event can be any one or more of several conditions:  business size and growth; a certain age (pick a specific year); a specific level of wealth accumulation (choose a figure); or the proverbial offer you can’t refuse.

2. Once a year, ask yourself this question:  If I were financially able and free from all restrictions, what would I do that has nothing to do with my business?  Keep a journal of the answers.  They are the key to reinventing yourself if and when you choose to leave the business.

3. Drive your mission, vision, and values as deeply into the organization as possible by carefully selecting people who share those attributes.  Develop a leadership system that highlights psychological and emotional diversity as well broad business skills.

4. Determine the level of interest family members have in the business.  If there appears to be none, then you have several options based on the size and scope of your business.  You can bring n professional management and leave the business within the family; sell it; or take it public. 

5. If family members are competent, capable, and committed, begin a successor development program for those involved.  Remember that an immediate family member does not have to the CEO the day you decide to leave.  You can build a succession bridge to span the development gap.

6. Use strategic planning as a way of establishing a long term direction for the business.  This gives the leadership team or prospective buyers an indication of the possibilities and probabilities of future success and return on their financial and temporal capital going forward.

7. Work with financial professionals and wealth coaches to provide outside, detached counsel regarding liquidity and sound investment strategies that achieve financial independence from the business.  Those strategies will change from one generation to the next.

8. Set a strike point for your exit.  When it comes, exercise your option to leave and begin doing what you would do if you were financially able and free to choose without restrictions.  It will be the beginning of a new career.

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