Is it time to find your replacement?

Many articles have been written about the lifecycle of a business. It begins with the exhilaration of the start-up phase and pushing your way through survival mode, achieving self-sustainability, and ultimately, becoming a mature and enduring company. Yes, many businesses never make it through survival mode, but for those that do, their founders also journey through their own leadership lifecycle. And one of the most perplexing challenges of that leadership lifecycle is when founders recognize that, in order for their company to endure, it’s time to find their replacement. Here begins a period of working through complex emotions and perhaps the most important decision a founder will ever make. The only way to bypass this period is to sell your company or discover the fountain of youth and become immortal.

I founded Strategies more than 17 years ago. I know that many of my natural abilities, like public speaking, writing, coaching and knowledge of how business works, pushed and pulled my company through its own lifecycle. Now, at age 60, I am well into the process of preparing myself to find my replacement and turn over the reins of my company. As a lifelong entrepreneur, it is very much about preparing yourself mentally and emotionally for this inevitable transition of authority and accountability.

Here are some thoughts I’d like to share with you about the process:

  • Your replacement will be a very different leader than you: If you think you’re going to find a replacement that is a clone of you, forget it. It’s likely that what your company needs is not “another you” to lead and grow it. A mature company requires a leader that is more strategic and disciplined than entrepreneurial. The reason is quite simple – a mature company is more complex. It has more “moving parts” that require structure. Entrepreneurs are visionaries that love to create and build things. Look for a replacement with the skill set to take your company further than you were able to. Don’t look for a clone.
  • Don’t rush the process and never settle: You are going to be transitioning the authority to run your company to another person. It is best to proceed slowly and diligently. Clarify your expectations for the position and what your role is going to be. Share information on your company thoroughly and openly – that means pulling back the curtain for your potential successor to see and understand the good, the bad and the ugly. Better to have a candidate withdraw from consideration rather than quit a few months in. Each step will determine if you should move to the next step or stop the process. It’s all about the exploration to ensure a good fit because you want more than an administrator – you want someone who is passionate about the work of your company and wants to grow it.
  • Reconnect with your strengths and your passions: There are aspects of your work that light you up and feed your passion. Take time to rediscover and connect with work that makes you feel wonderfully fulfilled. For me, it’s speaking, training, coaching and writing. It always has been. Writing my “No-Compromise Leadership” book was as much about setting the stage for my future work as it was a personal accomplishment. Simply put, the opportunity to engage in work you love without the day-to-day responsibility of running your company is waiting for you. You earned it – so go for it.
  • Begin wrapping your head around your new role: A company cannot have two presidents. You’ll just frustrate your new leader as well as the rest of your team. You can’t transition your leadership authority to your replacement without letting go of the reins. This means you will be shifting into a period of mentoring your new leader and gradually letting go as confidence builds. The transition takes time, so give it time.

If you’re around my age and still your company’s fearless leader, this Monday Morning Wake-Up should get you thinking about the next stage of your working life and how to get there. If you’re younger, this information will serve you well should you decide to start a new company and expand your entrepreneurial world. Either way, this is part of the lifecycle of being a leader.

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Please share your thoughts with me about today’s Monday Morning Wake-Up. Click above to comment.

Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO of Strategies and author of No-Compromise Leadership

Pass this e-mail on to your business colleagues, managers and friends. They’ll appreciate it.


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