The cat replies, Then it doesnt matter which way you go.
The same holds true with operational succession planning. If you dont know where you want to go, its impossible to develop a plan. Last month, we saw what could happen to a successful company as it transitioned to the next generation. The disaster could have been averted with a little effort and basic planning.
But it all begins with choosing a direction.
Commit to the vision
Determine what you want to accomplish, your vision for the future. This impacts not only the future of the company, but that of yourself and your family.
Some owners have absolutely no idea of their vision. Others have a fairly well established vision. Finally, a very few have actually put their vision on paper. Until that vision has been defined to the point that it is written, it is too loose and too easy to change or forget.
Just the act of writing it causes you to think about it, and because it is written, it is more permanent, more real, and, to some, more frightening. Documenting your vision confirms your commitment to it.
How difficult this process is depends on the individual. To some, it is natural to work toward a vision. It was the vision that got them into their business to start with. To others, it is a really difficult task. The good news, if you fall into this second category, is that the vision is usually there, it just needs to be coaxed out.
The important thing to remember is that no matter how difficult the task may be, it is the first step in ensuring your future, your businesss future, and your familys future. As the owner or CEO, you cannot use the excuse that you are too busy running your business to deal with this now. It is your job.
It is so crucial and so important to future success that I often recommend that clients go away from the business to someplace they can do some serious, dedicated, uninterrupted thinking.
A good example
One of the best and most succinct examples I have found is that of the owner of a growing business who told me that his vision was that 1) He wanted to be out of the day-to-day operations in five to seven years; 2) He did not want his kids in the business; 3) He wanted his employees to have opportunities for equity in the business.
With a vision so well defined, it wasnt very difficult to move through the next steps in the operational succession process. He is now implementing the plan we developed, which should enable his vision to become reality.
Im too young to worry about succession
It is never too early to start planning for succession. It is understandable that the earlier you start, however, the less defined the succession objectives may be.
Its too early to tell whether your kids will want to be involved or what the future holds for you and the business. Dont use this as an excuse. Set the vision and begin the succession planning process now and modify it as time goes on and your situation changes.
On the positive side, the succession planning process should make your company and organization stronger and enable it to maintain successful growth. You can reap those rewards even if you avoid that bus for many years to come.
Setting the vision is an important first step in the operational succession planning process. Once it is set, you can move on to the other three: assessing the current situation; developing the succession plan; and implementing the plan.
Next month, we will examine how assessing the current situation will help determine the extent of the gap between where you want to go and where you are.
Joel Strom (email@example.com) is president of Joel Strom Associates Inc., Growth Management. His firm works exclusively with closely held businesses and their ownership, helping them set and achieve their growth objectives while maximizing their profitability and value. Contact him at (216) 831-2663.