5 Lessons to Aid a Healthy Succession

It’s difficult to let go. You’ve spent years of your life building up your business. You’ve poured many long days and late nights making tough decisions to get your business where it is, but now you’ve decided that it’s time to pass it onto the next generation.

It’s no secret that crafting a healthy succession plan is a difficult thing to do. Not only because of the financial and operational hurdles, but the emotional ones too. 

All the hard work, dedication and passion you’ve put in to build the business means that it’s hard to separate what is you from what is your business. 

Often the business can feel like an extension of yourself, something that is so intrinsically you, like a limb. But when it’s time to pass the baton, a smooth transition is not only good for the business, it’s for your own good too.

Here are five lessons we’ve learnt to aid a healthy succession…

1. It’s a marathon, not a sprint

Succession doesn’t happen overnight. A healthy, well executed succession plan takes years to do. You’re going to find it difficult to relinquish control and responsibilities and your successor is going to take time to acquire the knowledge and skills to take the reins.

A gradual succession plan over a number of years means that you can maintain continuity of business as well as a continuity of lifestyle.

When we spoke to Rob Di Martino, of Del Re National Food Group, about his succession plan he explained that it was all about trust. Trust in the gradual transition process and trust in the successor.

2. Have trust in your successor

Seems like a no-brainer but it is a crucial factor for a successful succession plan. A change of leadership will inevitably result in a change of leadership style. The successor will have new, fresh ideas of the future of the business. You have to trust in your successor to steer the ship on the right path for the future of the business.

As much as it’s your job to impart the values and practices of the business, it’s equally your job to trust that you’ve chosen the right successor to champion the future of the business.

3. Find an outside advisor

There are many tough conversations to have and difficult decisions to be made when it comes to succession. It’s a highly fraught situation to be in, so you want to make sure the transition isn’t being guided by emotion or bias.

For this reason, it’s imperative that you bring in an independent advisor to act as a conduit between yourself, the leadership team and your successor. This will aid corporate governance, keep things professional and ease generational transition issues.

4. Tell the story of the business

Your business is an extension of you. It’s incredibly tied to your self-worth and history. Maybe you built the business from the ground up. Maybe you inherited it from a family member. Regardless of the situation, the business has a history and a story to tell and it’s your job to tell it.

We recently talked with Mike Boyd, CEO of Vroom Group, about how to use storytelling as a tool to develop and preserve a legacy. By telling the story of the business to your successor, you are writing them into it. They will feel like they are the next chapter in the rich story of the business. 

5. Find yourself outside your business

This lesson is all about your personal experience with your transition away from the business. Odds are you’ve spent many years working long weeks at the helm of your business. You’ve probably put a lot of things on hold during that time. 

As you step away from duties and become less involved in the operational aspects of the business, take some time to do what you love to do. Albert Pisconeri’s retirement from his business, Pisconeri Fine Foods and Wines, meant that he could spend time doing photography, watching the footy, and spending time with his grandkids. 

Find what it is you love to do and use that to aid your succession.


If you want to discuss your succession plan, or need advice on transitioning away from your business, contact us here at Stephan Independent Advisory.

For more real life stories about family business, succession planning and following your passions in business, listen to our podcast It’s Never About Money.

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