‘Don’t expect me to leave if I have nowhere to go’ #succession

Richard Shrapnel's Orienteering Succession blog

The whole concept of retirement and business succession can often create an expectation that at a certain age, it is time for you to leave. Add into that the pressure that a younger generation wanting to step up can apply, and it can seem that everybody wants you out of the business you built. Having a clear view of what the right timing is for you is crucial to your well-being, effective succession and the capital value of your business.


Active Knowledge Question:

When is the right time for you to step out of the current role you hold in your business?


Everyone who has built businesses over their lifetime understands the personal investment that is required to create and sustain a successful business. It is not something that you can, or should, necessarily just drop and walk away from.

And everyone is also different and when is the right time for each to step away will vary. It is a personal choice, but there is a range of factors that likely influence everyone’s decision and should be considered in weighing up your options.

Here are my thoughts on some of the key issues that you should factor into your thinking:

  • If your business is transitioning along family lines, then allowing the new generation to gain all the experience they can while you are still around to assist them is critical to the business’s future success. But that will require that you step away to create space for them to step up. Don’t leave this too late.
  • If you intend to sell your business, then market conditions and the strength of your business are important. You want to have an eye to the timing of sale to optimise the exit value for you and not be left still holding your business ‘when the music stops’.
  • You need to be a harsh assessor of your performance and the competitive performance of your business. You don’t want to be the person who drags the viability of your business backwards until it collapses because you couldn’t let go.
  • Health is essential and building and sustaining a business is not always the best ingredient for good health. You must have an eye to your longer-term health and ensure that you manage your investment in your business along with the investment in your health.
  • A purpose in life is what keeps all of us alive, active and healthy. Your business can be that purpose and therefore simply don’t surrender it because people around you think you should. Enjoy it for as long as it brings you joy. But also create space for the other things you always wanted to do in your life but haven’t.

And if you ever wonder if age can impact your capacity to be successful, the answer is a definitive no. Have a read of ‘You’re Too Young – Now You’re Too Old’  if you are unsure.

‘Not having anywhere to go’ is really not a reason for staying put. If you have run a business for most of your life, then you can certainly craft a new and exciting life for yourself if you wish.

When you choose to leave is a blending of the rational and emotional – rational choices around transition and exit value, and emotional choices around purpose and joy. Where you sit on that spectrum will be unique to you, and the most important outcome is that you do make a conscious decision as to if, when and how you will exit, rather than pretending the question doesn’t exist.


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All the best in the success of your business,

Richard Shrapnel