You’ve built a successful business, and now you’re ready to move on. However, thinking about how to get out of the business you spent your life getting into can be uncomfortable. There’s a lot to consider, strategically and emotionally.

Successful transitions don’t just happen, and unsuccessful transitions can undermine everything you’ve worked for. Only 30% of closely held businesses survive to the second generation of ownership, and less than 15% successfully transition to the third generation. No one transitions successfully without thoughtful preparation and planning.

What Got You Here Will Get You There

Most of the time, the saying “what got you here won’t get you there” is tremendously valid. But when it comes to succession planning, you can apply the same tools you used to grow your business, to create a successful transition. As a successful leader, you already know about creating visions, strategies, and communication plans. Here’s how to apply those tools to a successful transition:

1. Create a vision for your future

Thoughtfully consider what you want next: not for your business, but your personal life. You can’t lead your company forever, so decide what this transition makes possible for you going forward. Do you want to contribute to your company in a different role? Do you want to start a new business? Do you want to spend more time with family, pursuing hobbies, or traveling? Instead of creating a vision for the business, create a vision for your future.

2. Create a strategic plan to support your vision

Create a plan to make your vision a reality. You’ll need to determine your timeline and key objectives. Most likely, your successor is already a key part of your business. So, the plan needs to account for the ripple effect of their transition, as well. Change management is a significant aspect of strategic planning; you must recognize and work through the emotional implications this transition will have on you.

3. Communicate your vision and strategic plan

As with any vision and strategic plan, you must develop a clear communication strategy. Be intentional about who you communicate to and in what order. Consistency and clarity are key. Your shareholders, employees, and customers all have different perspectives; so, make sure you clarify what this transition means to the audience you are addressing.

Schedule Your Corporate Retreat

In business, a lot of vision and strategic planning takes place at corporate retreats. It’s a valuable way to strategize and re-energize without the daily distractions. As you create your vision and strategic plan for what lies ahead, take your own retreat. Take time away from your business and your daily responsibilities to think about what you want next. It’s natural to get caught up in what you’re giving up or leaving behind. Instead, focus on the opportunities this transition makes possible for your future.

Imagine yourself enjoying the next chapter of your life; the chapter you intentionally planned for and made a reality. You’re not lamenting what you lost. You’re enjoying what this transition freed you up to do. And, you’re cheering on your successor as they build upon the great work you’ve done in your organization.
Remember: no one does this successfully without thoughtful preparation and planning. So get out your calendar, and schedule your personal retreat.

Courtney DeRonde is a CPA and Co-Managing Partner of TDT CPAs and Advisors. Courtney and the TDT team help overwhelmed, successful small business and nonprofit leaders achieve better results and move their organization to the next level. Succession planning is a common tool to help those leaders move their organizations and their personal lives to the next level. As our firm’s incoming Managing Partner, Courtney also has firsthand experience with successful leadership transition.