Phasing Out

Building a business takes time, but inevitably there comes a time to move on

Preparing to turn over the business to a family member or to sell to an outsider is part of the natural progression of founding a business. In its book, Livelihood & Legacy: The NAPL Guide to the Family-Owned Business, the National Association for Printing Leadership outlines the arc of ownership, from founding the business to letting go.

In each of the eight phases discussed, business owners have important tasks and areas of focus. The early years in phases one through four naturally focus on getting the business started: opening the doors, keeping things going, building and expanding the business, and learning in order to deepen expertise in certain niches.

Once the business is established, owners’ attention shifts to ongoing management, bringing in new people and teaching them to manage the business, and mentoring those individuals to create value for the business and to assume a more prominent role. Finally, when owners are ready to retire or downshift to spend time on other endeavors, they begin letting go by formally transferring power and responsibilities to those carefully groomed for those roles.

This last phase is often the most difficult one for many business owners. “Very few are prepared for the emotional transition,” says Rock LaManna, president and CEO of the LaManna Alliance, LLC, in West Palm Beach, Florida. “Very few are strategic thinkers when it comes to facing their exit from the business or succession.” In fact, he notes that it can take an average of three to five years for business owners to finally let go and move on to the next phase of their lives.

LaManna’s advice: “Keep it simple, strategic, and smooth. It’s not rocket science; it’s based on trust, faith, and integrity.