Looking beyond marketing: Preparing for business transitions

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It's way out there: Ngc 6537, Red Spider Fog, Planetary Fog

In a little more than a week, my wife and I will head out on a two-week cruise vacation. The travels will start on Election Day in Ft. Lauderdale, and end in late November in New Orleans.

In 2016, you never need to be far from the “world” — but large file transfers and detailed business management will not be simple. In any case, this is as good a time as any to test our business systems to see if the enterprise can be maintained effectively when I am further and longer away. It is indeed time to start the retirement-stage transition planning.

So far, the preparations are going well, though there is an intriguing bit of micro-management/training required to execute the process — and some bigger systems/issues hopefully won’t be put to the test.  Although I am the company’s CEO, I do some work that would often be conducted by much more junior employees, including the editorial processing of our weekly e-letters, and the email list administration. And I have evolved to be the Chief Technology Officer, with responsibilities for managing the computer server, backups, and websites.  Staff and contractors need to be trained in the basics, and we need some backup for them if there are other problems.

Overlaying these issues, we need to plan the business structure, with my goal to start a five-year transition to true employee ownership in about 18 months. Current and new clients need to be served and products delivered.

Most businesses start, grow and die within a few years. A few become immense enterprises. Most “survivor” businesses reach a comfort zone and last for decades, facing the transition challenge when the founding owner/partner reaches retirement (or health issues force a change).  The transition process is intriguing, because at one level the “old” that made the business possible has value, but the key to pulling off the change is to allow the character and style of the business to change with the personalities and values of the new owners.

I realize I’m not disappearing off the face of the earth — at 70, I still expect to have shareholdings and hopefully some dividends from the enterprise. But I know the next few years are powerfully important times. Change is in the wind.

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