Problem Solver: Who takes over? My new manager or 20-year-old son?
Q: I run a successful business with good sales and modest profitability. I am 62 years of age and need some advice on how best to plan my exit from the business. I have a good new, young manager and a 20-year-old son who might have an interest in the business.
A: The typical advice I would give to a business owner in this situation is that it takes around five years to transition yourself out of the business and hand it over to someone else. I am assuming from the details you gave me in your email that you don't intend to sell the business, but rather have a manager and/or your son run it on your behalf so that you can continue to take a revenue stream from it.
First of all let's focus on your manager. You mention that she is both young, and relatively new to the business. That suggests that while she might be good, you need to do significant upskilling and development of her. This should involve internal upskilling in the business and ensuring that she knows the intricacies of its running, but also external management development through a college or university so that she gets the opportunity to fine tune her management skills and is given the opportunity to be exposed to some academic best practice and other participants on a programme which will broaden her mind set.
Regarding your son's position, you seem unclear whether he will come back to the business. I come across this situation often where parents have not had a meaningful conversation with a son or a daughter about their intentions and let the issue 'float around'.
In normal circumstances that wouldn't be as big of an issue, but because of your age I would suggest that you need to be clear on your sons intentions so that a transition plan can be developed, taking into account his wishes.
It is also important not to assume that he will have the skillset to run the business and so it may take several years for both him and you to be comfortable with his role in the company.
Finally, many business founders neglect to think about the cultural direction of the business and ethos when they are choosing someone to run it. It will not be too difficult to upskill someone to manage the business as you would do yourself, however it can be extraordinarily difficult to get someone else to understand the ethos you have created in the business so that they instinctively react in a way that is in line with the vision of the company.
Time will certainly help but do not underestimate the void that could be left when you decide to step back a little from the business if you haven't put significant time and effort into ensuring that the cultural aspects of the transition are also thought through.
You are doing the right thing by addressing this now while you have control of the situation, as you don't want to be forced into appointing someone at a later point when you may have less control of the outcomes.
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