Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Exit strategies

This week I sadly witnessed what happens when someone stays on past their sell- by -date. As I listened to this individual, I felt myself cringing and feeling embarrassed for him.  This is not the way to leave your career when for most of it you have been revered and respected by your peers.

When you are a business founder, how do you know when it is time to hand over the reigns to the next generation of leaders?  How do you know when you should retire or move on?

As a social entrepreneur, I have started several organizations – most in the non-profit sector.  Each time my departure has been a heart-felt decision, but I kept the wise words of a friend in mind.  He advised that when the founder is coming up with projects that are fitting his or her needs, not those of the organization, then it is time to go. 

I know in one instance, I was bored so I was constantly looking for some new shiny thing to work on, when what the organization desperately needed was to stabilize and put the systems in place so it could function efficiently.  Once I realized that I was hurting the very organization I had lovingly help start, I left.

But sometimes the decision is sort of made for you and you are ousted out of your leadership position. Perhaps you have overstayed your welcome, or your vision is no longer shared by key stakeholders.  Now that can be painful, but you move on and with time recognize what you could have done differently. 

Listening to the cues and paying attention to what others are saying, or more to the point, not saying can guide you to make that difficult decision that it is time to leave. 

When it is your business, and it’s no longer fun, and it feels like work, hard work, maybe it is time to re-examine your goals and direction.  Maybe it is time to come up with some exit strategies.  Are you going to sell the business?  Is there someone internally who might take over?  Or do you just close shop?  Whatever your decision, know that it takes time to orchestrate, if you want your departure to be done seamlessly.

What you want to avoid is what many of us witnessed this week, with your reputation in tatters and that last memory unfavourable.

No.  What we all want is to retire gracefully at our prime, with a successful career/business behind us.

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