To founders, a business is more than a capitalist endeavor. It’s more than brick and mortar, website and inventory. It’s a piece of them that’s been put into the world to change an industry. Too often, succession planning focuses on teaching founders how to leave their companies, but not how to strengthen their companies so they can thrive even after the founder leaves. We believe that it benefits a founder—and the business—to focus on developing an effective transition within the underlying company, and we’ve got three tips that can help you do that.
Let your team know what’s coming. While it’s important to choose and train a successor CEO, it’s quite possibly even more important to prepare and train the team that will be there to support the new person in charge. It also helps them feel like a part of the transition—like its success is partially due to them.
Be open about shifts in culture and objectives. A new CEO will bring new perspective to the table. They may use their talents and experience to shift the company in a new direction, toward new opportunities that might not have been a priority for the founder. Keeping the staff informed of these shifts helps ensure that they remain committed to the overall focus of the company and to its success. This can take time since many of them will be tied to the founder’s original vision, but the founder being supportive of these changes will help.
Find acceptable, limited ways to maintain a role in the company. Many founders don’t want to leave their companies entirely, but it can be confusing to employees, partners and board members if you have one foot in and one foot out. Clearly define your ongoing role with the company and any limitations so that everyone—including you—has a good idea of the boundaries.
Don’t think of your succession plan as a way of saying goodbye to your company; think of it as the one way to help guarantee the future success of the organization you built.