More than 250,000 Americans turn 65 each month. Many are entrepreneurs who have built successful businesses. And almost all are reluctant to hand over those businesses to buyers or new leaders. A stagnant economy has led to a stagnant leadership pipeline. This means that many retiring Boomers must be prepared to hand over their business to someone younger, with a vastly different leadership style.
Boomers are often charismatic leaders, stubbornly running their businesses with a hefty dose of passion and charm. They are also much less organized than younger leaders often are. So what do you need to know as you prepare for a transition? And how do you prepare? Follow these tips.
Know What Your Business Needs
You know your business better than anyone else. Think about where it is going and what it needs to get there. Perhaps you’ve plateaued, with similar advertising, earnings, and service offerings for many years. If you seek innovation and growth, new leadership can make it a reality.
Consider the role new leadership might play, and how you can prepare them for the next steps.
Prepare New Leaders
Prepare the next crop of leaders by helping embed them in their business. This is the best way to support them to understand how your business operates. A shadowing program can work wonders for future leaders. Future leaders should watch you do the things you’re best at, so that they understand why your strategies work so well. The goal here is for the person shadowing you to observe all the tiny interactions, decisions, and adjustments you make to successfully run the business you have built.
Master Cross-Generational Communication
Younger leaders may not be as focused on the legacy of the business as you are. They seek new opportunities, and Millennials in particular rarely think about that which came before them. This understandably can cause some friction. But a little communication goes a long way. Acknowledge the new leadership team’s desire for changes. Talk also about the company’s history and mission, and why they matter to you.
Move to the Back Seat—But Keep an Eye on Things
Consider seller financing. It became increasingly popular in the wake of the economic downturn, when buyers struggled to get loans to purchase businesses. Seller financing allows you to be paid over time. It also ensures your continued involvement. This can support a smooth leadership transition that assures customers, clients, vendors, and your staff.
Step Aside and Stay There
No matter what role you plan to play in the business upon stepping aside, you must let the new leaders find their own footing. Don’t micromanage. Don’t question every decision they make. They don’t have to do things exactly as you did to succeed. Indeed, one of the ways your business may thrive is by embracing new approaches to old problems.
You can always offer advice based on hard-won wisdom. At some point, though, you must quit trying to be the driver. Wait for the new leaders to seek your wise counsel, and then supply only that which you think they must know to run the business.
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