Planning your exit strategy

Planning your exit strategy

I typically work with clients who are experiencing transition or change. For some, this means entering a new market or creating a new product line. Leadership succession is another type of change and transition.

Succession planning is vital to an organization’s long-term output; without it, a business’ future is left to fate. Succession planning starts with a strategy for how an organization’s leadership or ownership will pursue longevity. It tackles pressing questions, like: Do we sell the business–and if so, what is saleable? Do we pass the torch to a new generation–and if so, what needs to be in place to set them up for success? Do we need to develop a new leadership team? How do we define the value of what is being transferred?

Too often, transition planning is left on the back-burner or completely overlooked. Truthfully, it takes humility, acceptance, and energy to give serious thought to “What happens when I/we aren’t running this show anymore?” 

The Essential Story Process (ESP) can help the process along in an empowering way.

Succession Planning and the Essential Story Process

Succession planning involves many elements: legal, financial, psychological, and other factors. The Essential Story Process can be a key input to the work that goes into planning for succession. It helps an organization discover the brand’s own voice and story separately from its founders, owners, and leaders. It provides a platform for connection and shared understanding thanks to its collaborative and evidence-based approach.

The resulting Essential Story clearly defines the organization’s purpose and identity aligned with, but separate from, any single leader or leadership team. That provides valuable clarity:

  • Clarity for those who are planning their exit by clearly identifying the distinction between individuals and the brands they oversee
  • Clarity to incoming leadership about what they are taking over and what they must protect

Perhaps the greatest value the Essential Story Process contributes to succession planning activities is defining the difference between individuals in charge and the entity of the brand or organization itself. It does so by perfectly articulating the brand, giving it a unique voice separate from an individual or group of leaders.

Paving the way for succession

Most businesses start as a reflection of their founder’s original idea. A business or organization with longevity must have the legs to grow beyond that. A successful brand grows beyond its original conception because it is receptive to experience, its environment, its customers, and stakeholders. 

Nobody takes over a business, brand, or organization if they can’t see its potential. To be appealing to new ownership or leadership, a brand or organization must demonstrate more than what it has done – it must show what it can do, and that it’s ready to do it.

Yet, letting go is a common challenge with succession. For founders, owners, and even whole leadership teams, a business or organization can become a part of their identity. If they fail to let go of that, succession is likely to be messy, contentious, or at worst unsuccessful.

The Essential Story Process can help foster effective succession by celebrating what has been accomplished, and providing a bridge to what the brand will achieve in the future. It is an opportunity for leadership past, present, and future to come together to reflect on the brand’s history, understand its present, and articulate its future.  

Does your organization have an exit strategy in place for when the current leadership transitions? Our proven Essential Story Process will give you the tools you need for succession. Please reach out for a consultation – we’ll be happy to talk.