5 Integral Keys to Transitioning Leadership
There are many hurdles small, family-owned companies face when it comes to transitioning to next-gen leaders. These five tips are key elements for success.
In my long career in security I, like you, have been through leadership changes — some easy and some pretty tough. Depending on the company size and focus, whether manufacturer, distributor, systems integrator, or dealer, the challenges of change can impact your career and ultimately the brand for which you work.
The merger and acquisition of larger companies and leadership can be soul shaking. Adapting or seeking new opportunities can be voluntary or forced, often with great speed.
Surviving those changes depends on your grit factor, evolving value and unfortunately … politics. However, what about smaller, family-owned business transitions to the next generation?
While we have worked with most of the industry’s largest players, successful smaller entrepreneurial companies pose very unique challenges enabling the next generation of leaders.
Larger companies often have well-established policies and procedures that need updating to compete with increasingly more competitive market dynamics that require a more strategic engagement.
Having lived in that environment, thinking must be focused on turning aircraft carriers around in mid-course. Politics and alignment with senior management are key to making measureable changes. Smaller companies are a much different story and represent significantly different strategies.
First, there is the challenge of taking the founder’s vision and successes, along with coaching the new vision and brimming ideas of the next-gen leaders of growing the business.
The key measurement is ROC, return on confidence, for owners who want to have a solid retirement plan, adherence to their core values and most importantly slowly letting go of the business reins to family members who will lead.
We have discovered over the last 22 years as an independent integrator and consulting company, there are five key elements for success.
1. Carefully and respectfully asking and understanding the business goals for the next 15 years. This is often the most difficult step to understand — how power will be transitioned and how alignment of thinking builds both confidence and trust. Without this, rest assured this transition will be extremely difficult. If the blood, sweat, tears and experience as an entrepreneur is ignored, stormy weather ensues for the business, their customers and sadly family relationships.
2. Evaluating and objectively grading the talent, skills and training required for a successful transition. Until these gaps between goals and reality are identified, agreed to and planned for, disappointment will ensue and the reins of control will be tightened. The impact is fear, doubt and uncertainty for leadership in the company and ultimately turnover of key talent. This can lead to the erosion of customer loyalty and profitable revenue streams.
3. Ego-centric control from a single decision maker (owner) that overpowers the next-gen, who have new ideas that may lead to long-term company goals of success. We understand how and why this happens; however, next-gen leaders must be allowed to make some mistakes to learn how to run the business in a new direction. Recognize the difference between “this is how I would do it” to allow papercut mistakes vs. arterial business bleeding missteps. Hard to watch, but essential to next-gen learning. How did we learn our greatest lessons? Allow next-gen to learn with a safety net and not a tether to the past.
4. The ability to examine and change processes, tools and ideas to grow the business. Herein lies how founders can share lessons they learned while communicating accountability and responsibility to next-gen leaders. The most important element here is to allow failure and help next-gen leaders learn from failure. Nothing ventured and learned; then nothing gained.
5. Avoid “silver bullets” to solve problems. There are many security associations and experienced consultants that can help you gain broader perspectives and expertise to augment a leadership change. Explore these options and focus on long-term and trusted advisors that “walk the talk” and have walked in your shoes. Additionally, experienced/seasoned individuals and associations provide a network of people who can help effectively mentor your new leadership team. PSA Security Network, Electronic Security Association, National Systems Contractors Association, SecurityCEU.com and the Security Industry Association can help your team develop much greater competency to be successful.
While we have been successful over the last 22 years helping founders/owners make this transition, we have not done it alone. Our security industry is built on establishing important relationships. Make sure you help next-gen leaders build those relationships that will ensure a comfortable retirement for you as the founder.
Otherwise, it will seriously impact your putting, adventuring and time off that was well-earned to pursue what you richly deserve. Time to do what YOU want!
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