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Ascend to Success


One of the potential problems in the corporate world, is getting stuck in a position without the ability to move up or laterally to another development position. This happens most often when an individual becomes the expert in something and refuses to delegate and train others. Their feeling of worth becomes attached to the position and others depending on them. I see the same thing happening in many small and medium businesses. Owners, CEO’s, Presidents feel the business depends on them alone. Maybe they’ve built it from the ground up and can’t let go of it. To some extent, their job can be harder than in the corporate world, as many talented people are siphoned away to the corporate world where salaries are high and bonuses more assured.

If you want success in business, or in your career, you need to have a succession plan that allows the ascension of someone to take over for you. If you are a business owner, you might want to be able to take one or two days or weeks off without having to worry about the business spiraling downward while you are gone. Some owners will need to think of their exit strategy and the sale of the business as their succession plan, treating a potential acquirer of the company as a “person” to fill their role.

In the corporate world, succession planning is one part of the regular appraisal and compensation reviews that occur. First the appraisal is done, compensation is determined, then begins the process of identifying talented people to be developed and who is immediately ready to fill any position. You never know when something unexpected will happen. I know of one company that was growing fast and profitably when the owner was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died within six months, leaving the business to his spouse who was not ready to keep it going. I know another where the owner unexpectedly had kidney failure and had to step back from regular participation in the business to take core of himself, with dialysis several times a week. Key man insurance is not the end all for planning. It creates a pot of money, but not the talent to keep the business going.

I know another individual that did an amazing job of planning for his succession. For almost two thousand years, the organization has transferred leadership from one or more individuals to another. Over 265 generations of (mostly) principled leadership, that started with one amazing leader mentoring and delegating to twelve individuals, one of which left voluntarily and had to be replaced. I’m sure you recognize the Catholic Church. I’ve read a lot of history of the Church and see the issues it deals with today. It’s certainly not perfect, but what company is? Still, there is much to be learned about principled leadership, succession planning, and long term success. Jesus peaked in popularity when entering Jerusalem. A week later he was crucified, literally. Sounds a bit like the story of Uber and Travis Kalanick. Jesus came back to life for a few weeks, then left the organization to his followers at his ascension to another position.

If you want your business to ascend to the next level, consider what it needs to get from .A2.B. Who can do that? Your successor may need to be different than you in many ways. Angel investors often ask founders if they will be willing to step aside at some point to allow their business to grow. Do they want to control a company, or do they want to make a lot of money? Often, bringing in others will net the owner faster profitable growth, giving him or her more money from the business and more time for life, as well as a successor.