We all profess to know it; we all say we should be doing it but when it comes to the crunch not many of us do it well. Letting go of anything particularly your business in the true sense of the word is a very difficult thing to put into practice and then implement and be happy about it.

The most common issue for Small to Medium sized business today is wrapped up in the labelling of succession.
I would like to provide a different perspective around succession and what the “real issues” are and why for a great deal of business people it is one of the most difficult and draining experiences that business owners and managers can go through, Why?

Well it all has to do with making sure that it take’s on the life you expected it to, yes, it is really about managing each parties expectations across the “whole” of the process, whatever it is you are trying to succession out of.
For succession to take on the life you expect it to you need a plan, understanding that this takes some time to create, probably nine months to a year and some number of years for implementation. This is how you can turn the unthinkable into the enjoyable.

What is your and your fellow partners dream? Have you ever shared this with them? Did they really know exactly how passionate you are about fly-fishing? In short, what’s your dream and what’s theirs? When would you like less involvement to follow that dream and most importantly, is there alignment at partner level around this?

You have now admitted publicly at least to your partners that you are prepared to let go of your creation.

So if you are going to become less involved how are you going to do this? Against what criteria are you going to make this decision? Are there skill gaps within the business and how can you close them?

Remember you are about to sell some of “the farm” here and more than likely you are going to need some ongoing income to support that very expensive fly fishing habit you developed. This business is your baby, you created it and you need the right people running it into the future.

So you’ve agreed and shared with your fellow partners your dream, you’ve decided when is a good time to start letting go and there is agreement about who are the anointed ones to succeed in, so what’s next? It’s time for a project plan and to start involving some outsiders.

The accountant is probably the first outsider you’ll need. Presumably you are going to sell the business gradually, so what’s it worth and once you’ve arrived at that what will your sale price be. Are you going to discount it because your successor has helped you build it up over the years and what would the “fairness equation” look like?

There are many more functions for the accountant to be involved in here, things like the shareholders agreement, insurance, tax implications and finance. Of course many of these issues have legal implications so you’ll need to involve a lawyer.

It’s now time to turn your efforts into reality and present your plan to your staff. It’s worth reflecting here that you are about to change the personality of your business forever. Why, because up to this stage there probably hasn’t been a clear career path and you may have never clearly articulated what you or your partner’s intentions were much less committed them to paper. Suffice to say you will now have to spend some concerted effort in managing and coaching your staff around the new future of their business.

It is however possible that some members particularly the long term ones may not view this new future positively. Rest assured though from what seemed the unthinkable you now have created a whole new world of future for your staff.
But more importantly you can now focus on a whole new future for yourself one that in time may well involve fulfilling that dream of catching that giant salmon in some far off corner of the globe.

This article was contributed by Paul Crane of Shirlaws. Shirlaws is a coaching organisation that commenced its Australian operations in 1999 with the ambition of establishing business coaching as an industry primarily servicing small business owners. Shirlaws’ business intent is to “enrich people’s lives” based on its values of Openness, Honesty and Fairness. Typically their clients have up to 100 staff. In 2002 they were acknowledged as the 7th fastest growing company in Australia by BRW. Shirlaws has some 60 staff operating from offices all around Australia.