I’ve heard this a thousand times from business owner clients over almost 40 years I’ve been a business succession planner. I understand – I don’t want to retire and I’m five years older than the age my father retired. For most business owners, you love what you do and you probably feel like Bobby Bowden, FSU football coach who was reported to say, “I don’t want to retire and die six months later like Bear Bryant!” To many, retirement feels like the end.
“I WANT A SUCCESSION PLAN TO CONTINUE MY LIFE’S WORK” This is the primary reason why business owners hire me and my partners at The Rawls Group. As succession planners, the challenge of developing a succession plan and dealing with an owner who doesn’t want to retire creates a giant challenge. Succession demands change and it will either be a seamless transition, a long and painful process or even a potential explosion, resulting in the destruction of your business. Your actions and attitude as the owner will play a large role in determining what happens.
In order for your succession plan to work, your successor/s must be ready to go, fully prepared to take over the leadership of the company. For succession to be seamless, the successor must have demonstrated his/her competency and that means the current owner must provide an atmosphere in which the successor/s can gain leadership experience and demonstrate they will be able to lead the company. There should be no doubt in any of the management team’s minds that the successor/s are capable, respected and will successfully be able to lead the company into the future.
In a recent article, “Developing an Exit Strategy… Or Not” written by my partner, Jeff Faulkner, he stated “one of the most significant factors negatively impacting effective succession plans is business owners who do not leave.” I agree, so, how do we prepare the successor and seamlessly transfer leadership if the owner doesn’t plan on retiring/leaving?
YOU DON’T WANT TO LEAVE AND YOU WANT YOUR BUSINESS LEGACY TO CONTINUE – YOU ARE THE KEY TO MAKING THIS HAPPEN!
Loyd Rawls, has been committed to succession planning for over 47 years since he founded The Rawls Group. So, better than anyone, Loyd knew that he would need to make changes in his role if Succession Success for The Rawls Group was going to happen. But knowing what to do and being willing to do it can be two different things. To his credit, Loyd was willing and continues to be willing to do what is necessary to ensure the ongoing Succession Success of our company.
To make sure his life’s work would continue, Loyd committed himself to the following:
- Loyd consciously decided to transfer day to day decision making authority to his successor, Dave Ciambella, our bridge to the future;
- Support their decisions publicly – if you disagree, do so privately;
- Re-define your role and that of your successor;
- Meet regularly with your successor to discuss the transition and how you and your successor are doing in making this happen seamlessly – communicate, communicate, communicate;
- Accept that you and your successor are human and will step on each other’s toes as you attempt to transition the company’s leadership for succession – mistakes will be made by all parties requiring forgiveness and extending the benefit of the doubt to each other.
I’m just like so many of you – retirement is not a goal of mine. BUT, just like Loyd, I understand that if I want my clients to continue to be well served beyond me, I need to prepare my successor/s. Therefore, I am attempting to do the following:
- Determine what part of our business do I really enjoy and continue to add value;
- Encourage my successor/s to take the lead in our dealings with clients – as long as I continue to add value, I don’t have to worry whether clients or my successor/s will want me to stay involved;
- That’s exactly what Loyd did – he loves working with clients so he transferred the leadership and running of the company to Dave and focused on what he is so very gifted at doing – serving the needs of his clients. He’s as committed as ever and continues to play an extremely important role in our company.
The result – Loyd and I continue to stay involved, enjoy the parts of the business we really enjoy and our successors want us to stay! Hopefully we all WIN! Unfortunately, as humans we often have better intentions than performance. So, I need to continuously remind myself:
- Attitude is Everything! Unsolicited advice is dictating, often received as ‘dictator’. If you will encourage, affirm and support rather than criticize and rebuke, you are much more likely to see your successor/s coming to you for advice and counsel, wanting you to stay.
What’s your succession role if you want your legacy to continue? Wise counsel, sounding board, source of wisdom and experience, chairman, maybe even cheerleader – that’s how you will continue to bring value and your successors will want you to stay. “I don’t want to retire but I want my succession plan to work!” It depends on YOU! And thanks to Loyd’s commitment and actions, his legacy through The Rawls Group will continue, hopefully for 100 years!