Business succession_what to do when youre not ready to step down

Running a family business can be exhausting. Exhilarating, but exhausting. Most family business owners never lose their passion and love of work. They enjoy the hunt, the competition, and their executive teams. However, the day-to-day grind of dealing with operational problems, HR matters, etc. often leaves them feeling overwhelmed. At some point, founders and entrepreneurs are looking for a way to relieve that day-to-day burden. However, just because the head of the business is ready to step down does not mean that someone is ready to step up.

So what can a founder do when he or she still loves the company and is not ready to sell or step away, but needs to pull back from carrying all of the responsibility?

Business succession planning is fraught with complexity and emotion. For CEOs that don’t feel like their executive team is quite ready to assume the responsibility of running the business, there is another path to follow: Hiring an operator who will partner with you in running the business. This individual will run the day-to-day operations of the business, allowing the owner to stay involved but have more time for other pursuits.

When taking this route, we strongly recommend reaching out to your most trusted advisors first (i.e. your accountant, lawyer, board members, and banker). These individuals know you and your company well. They can help you strategize about the type of candidate you need for this critical new role and what skills and qualities he or she will need from both a technical and a cultural standpoint.

Next, presuming that you plan to run a non-confidential search, talk to key members of your executive team to ensure alignment regarding what is needed strategically for the role to succeed. Keep in mind that “A player” level talent will be interviewing you as much as you will be interviewing them. It is essential that all team members who will be involved in the interview process are consistent when speaking about the profile of the role, the strategic mission of the company, and the growth plans for the business. Any confusion about these areas can create red flags in the mind of the executive you are trying to attract.

Also, make sure that you are open and transparent about the organizational challenges you face, the culture, and the company’s financial standing. Be prepared for finalist candidates to ask for a copy of your audited financials. If you agree (which is probably a good idea for your top candidates), be sure to have them sign a confidentiality agreement. These steps are essential in building trust.

Once you have completed the hiring process and your new executive is in place, ensure that you both check your egos. As an owner, you need to be able to objectively listen to critical feedback once the executive immerses into the job. This executive might help grow the company to new heights, so be prepared to embrace the new success.

Contact us to learn more about this topic.

Subscribe to Kreischer Miller's email newsletter

You may also like: