Everyone who owns a business understands the need to have a carefully designed succession plan to ensure the sustainability of the operation for the long term, starting with a smooth “handoff.” While it sounds rather easy to draft and implement such a succession plan, reality is far different—and one of the biggest stumbling blocks are owners who just won’t let go.
The MIT Age Lab and Hartford Funds, as part of its research into the benefits and challenges of living longer, came up with three core questions older people should answer to find clarity and purpose in their golden years:
- Who will change my light bulb? (How will everyday tasks get done?)
- How will I get my ice cream cone? (How will I get around?)
- Who will I have lunch with? (What will my social network look like?)
Obviously, these questions are broad and apply to anyone who’s lived to a ripe, old age. I’ve come up with another set of questions that can be invaluable for business owners to ask themselves as they contemplate their succession plan and post-business life:
- What will my calendar look like? (How will I fill my days?)
- What will keep me from snooze button overuse? (What will motivate me to get out of bed?)
- How will I retain valued connections? (Who will remain in my social circle?)
In answering these questions, business owners are actually participating in the process of creating a whole new world for themselves—a world that must have purpose and ways to measure success that are much different those found in a corporate setting. With a clear focus on what comes next, it becomes easier to step away from what’s known and comfortable to enter into an exciting new chapter of life.
Notice I didn’t say it is easy, because it certainly is not. It takes a good deal of work for business owners to basically recreate their identities, since their entire lives have been focused on one goal that is no longer applicable: being a successful entrepreneur.
Those who fail to create a clear picture of what their lives will look like after transitioning out of the business are the ones who often inadvertently sabotage their carefully designed transition and succession plans because they keep hanging on for dear life, to the detriment of themselves and their businesses. On the other hand, those who are able to seamlessly transition from their business—doing so with grace—are providing their successors with a great gift: the ability to take the handoff and run with it.