Exit Stage Right, But When? #succession

Richard Shrapnel's Orienteering Succession blog

There will come a time at which it is appropriate for you to step away from your daily involvement in the business that has been a significant part of your life. Many would say that the proper time is when they are ready and not before, but there is probably a better way to time your exit.


Active Knowledge Question:

Have you thought about and planned for your exit?


If you have spent your life building your business, it will represent a significant part of your life and an activity that has occupied your mind, most hours of most days. You can’t just turn that off overnight nor should you try to.

Many business people try the progressive ‘exit stage right’ where they appoint a new CEO, formalise a Board and shift themselves into a role such as Chair of the Board. Often that can become an experience that some express as ‘death by a thousand cuts’ as they witness changes in their business that they would never have accepted in the past. Some view these changes as a challenge to their prior decisions and success and step back into control.

We all know and have seen colleagues who have struggled with stepping away from their prior leadership roles. In my experience, three years can be a good rule of thumb for an effective transition from the time you make the decision to when you can successfully exit. The point to the three years is that you must plan for it and not leave it until it is too late.

In theory, succession should be planned for the moment a business is formed as it is one of the most effective tools to build the capital value of your business. Reality is that few businesses ever think that far ahead.

So how do you look ahead and begin to pencil into your planner when that appropriate time maybe? What is happening in your personal life is obviously a key consideration, and there may be events or priorities that will dictate or influence your decision. But putting those considerations to one side for the moment, your focus should fall firmly on the business and its continuity.

What are the needs of the business to ensure its continuity, growth and success? Who do you need to bring into the business and what roles do they need to fulfil? And importantly, what experience do they need to gain to allow them to lead the business forward confidently. Note, these new people are not just to replace you, but to provide the skills, experience and expertise to take the business to its next level of growth.

As you continue in your existing role, it is unlikely they will be able to gain the experience they will need. Your stepping aside will create the space for them to learn and grow. Pencil in your exit to create space, but as we will see in next week’s posting, there are many ways this exit can be achieved.  


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All the best in the success of your business,

Richard Shrapnel