Is there ever a time in life that we are not going through some kind of transition?
Sometimes transitions come with great anticipation, such as a wedding, the birth of a child or the anticipation of moving to a new community or home. Other times transitions are thrust upon us unwillingly, the death of a loved one being one of the most difficult examples.
My beloved mother passed away a few months ago. She was “ready to go” and died peacefully surrounded by her family. She was 95. Despite the fact that her death was in many ways “a blessing,” I have nevertheless felt myself going through a significant transition. In fact, as I write this, it is her birthday and for the first time in my life I cannot celebrate it with her. Despite the fact that her memory was failing and she lived in an assisted living situation, I looked forward to calling her and visiting her frequently. Transitions – sometimes we choose them, other times they choose us.
If I were to summarize the client inquiries we receive at North Group, I would easily characterize “transition” as the most common type of inquiry. Because our client base has such a great degree of diversity, each transition has different elements. Most of these inquiries involve preparation and planning, deservedly so. Occasionally, a transition has been unexpectedly thrust on the organization; and a different approach is required.
Whenever we begin to assist an organization in preparing for transition, we emphasize the following:
- Clarify your “why” – your purpose, core values, mission, and vision for the future
- Build a strong cohesive leadership team
- Make sure your business is healthy from a culture and employment environment standpoint
- Make sure your business is healthy from a financial standpoint, including more than adequate cash
Occasionally, we come across organizations who have no plan at all and are vulnerable to unplanned transitions as a result. In many cases, they are coming to us because they are aware of the risk but for a variety of reasons have not dealt with it. In these cases, we strongly recommend the drafting of an “emergency succession plan”. These types of plans are particularly valuable in a single owner business where succession is not obvious. The “emergency succession plan” provides instructions to the heirs and employees to build a bridge that will encourage the continuity of the organization. In addition, the existence of an “emergency succession plan” provides space for a more planned and organized approach to be constructed.
Unfortunately, most all of us have some level of experience with organizations thrust into chaos because of the lack of planning for transition. This simply should not be.
One final story. I remember a situation from many years ago. A large, successful and admirable family business had been built, largely on the creativity, initiative and energy of the first generation entrepreneur. Fittingly, the second generation family members had great respect for their dad. In fact, so much respect that may have believed him to be immortal. It took a good degree of frank conversation to convince them otherwise and begin an orderly transition planning process.
Hmm…An orderly and well-planned transition process, now there’s a great idea!