Not much about business succession is easy. There are decisions to make, risks to take, people to prepare, plans to share. An often overlooked part of succession is the practical, simple and often emotional question of what will the founder or leader do when the business is sold or transitioned to the next generation of leadership.

This is one of the most powerful questions you can answer for yourself, as an owner. While it is simple, it is rarely easy to answer. When you know the answer to that question you can make better decisions, have more clear timelines and can communicate plans to the next generation that help them make better decisions.

Here is how to do it.

  1. Download this tool
  2. Fill it out with the names of current ownership, future ownership and your key leadership.
  3. Put everyone’s current age (including yours) in the first column. Then add 5 years to that age three times. This will help you see where you and all of your most important people will be in 15 years. It is incredible how quickly a 5 year old turns 20 years old when you do this.
  4. With the document filled out, imagine your life 10 years from now and ask yourself these important questions:
    • How do I want to be involved with the business in 10 years?
    • What do I think the other owners, future owners and key leaders will want to be doing in their lives and careers. Will they be joining the business, retiring, hoping to have greater responsibility?
    • What do I want my life to be like in 10 years. What time do I want to wake up? Where do I want to be living? Who do I want to spend my time with? What do I want to do on the average day? What do I want to be thinking about? What do I want my days to be like from the time I wake up until I go to bed?
  5. When you’re clear about what you want your life to be like write down a few key bullet points that describe what your plans are.
  6. Share that information with other owners, future owners and key leaders.
  7. Work together to make a plan for succession that gets your life to look like you want it to in 10 years.

One third generation member of a family business did this and realized they wanted to be done working in the family business but still wanted to pursue their own entrepreneurial endeavors. They worked with the leadership and family to create a succession plan that allowed that to happen.

While challenging, this is a truly valuable tool.

What next?

  • Schedule time today to fill out the 5+5+5 tool
  • Follow this exercise or ask for help doing it
  • Tell your key leaders, fellow owners and future owners where you want to be in 10 years and ask them to do the same
  • Start making plans for succession