“I probably should do something about succession planning, but the timing just doesn’t seem to be right.  There’s a wedding coming up, we’ve got another grandchild on the way, and none of our children seem to want to have anything to do with the business.  Maybe I should just sell it.”

That’s a distilled version of a conversation I recently overheard in an airport.  I was minding my own business, and I heard those magic few words that immediately drew me in:  succession planning.  What really struck me was how creative and rationalizing we can be when faced with actions we don’t really want to take. 

In reality, the best time for succession planning is similar to the best time for planting an oak tree, twenty years ago.  But, for whatever reasons, it didn’t.  So that takes us to the second best time:  today.

Many people avoid succession planning because they are afraid it will be uncomfortably hard work.  But what if it wasn’t?  What if succession planning was actually an enjoyable process that brought harmony to a struggling family?  What if it resulted in the current generation of owners finding ways to develop financial and emotional independence away from the business?  If those things could happen, then would the timing be right?

Well, you are in luck today!  The timing for your succession planning is always just right when you focus on outcomes related to these four factors:  Pride, Pleasure, Peace of Mind, and Profit.  To build a succession plan that satisfies each of these conditions, here are the six things you want to take into consideration:

  1. Purpose – goes beyond self-consciousness and relates to the “what for” and “for whom” questions that help you understand the emotional and rational reasons for creating and executing a succession plan.

  2. Role/Identity – what roles and responsibilities will you play now and in the future?  It gives you a sense of self that goes beyond what you do.

  3. Values/Beliefs – provide the reinforcement (motivation and permission) needed to see how your plans create value for the business, the family, and the future leaders.  In some cases, it helps create a stewardship culture related to ROI.

  4. Capabilities – an assessment of the knowledge and skills needed to effectively execute the plan.

  5. Behavior – the specific actions and reactions within the business and the family that create continuity, synergy, and teamwork as the plan is executed.

  6. Environment – the external factors that impact the acceleration or deceleration of plan implementation.

Looking at succession planning from this perspective suggests that there is never a bad time for succession planning.  After all, what could possibly be wrong with taking a little humble pride in what you have accomplished?  In taking some pleasure in the fruits of your labor?  In finding some peace of mind in knowing that you have created a way of life as well as a means to a living?  In finding a way to profit and benefit from what you have made possible for others? 

So when’s the right time for succession planning?  Today.  Get going! 

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