“Today we are a profitable, well-run business, but what does tomorrow bring? When my generation of leaders is gone, who is going to lead this business?” This forward-looking lament by this CEO was sincere but coming too late in his time at the helm. Being a year away from retirement, he finally recognized that the company he founded and had work so many decades to build was at risk of failing. While he could afford to retire, the company couldn’t afford for him to retire.
Indirectly, his words were an admission of his short-sightedness to prepare a successor nor to develop any real bench strength within the coming generations. Mortality and aging eventually come knocking. His personal and family interests called for him to retire, yet this CEO-centric, personality-built business depended upon him as the one and only leader. His attempts to sell the business amounted to a bit more than liquidation price. Potential buyers or merger partners quickly recognized that apart from the him the business lacked a sustainable income stream whereby a multiple could be applied.
As the adage goes, “Better late than never.” Realizing the corner he had painted himself into, the CEO was referred to us to help him not just see but fix his blindspot for the value of people, not as resources at his disposal, but as engaged and contributing members of the team.
Businesses are like ecosystems whereby everything is connected. This business was not going to go from zero “to attracting and retaining leaders and the right talent” overnight. Fortunately, the CEO was on board and ready to alter the culture and invest in having a more professional team approach to leading the business.
- Assessed competitive positioning in the market to determine Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats, and Trends
- Clarified Purpose, Vision, Mission, and Values (PVMV) to set a strong strategic foundation for corporate alignment and allocation of people and money to right opportunities.
- Crafted the company Strategic Story and codified internal language and terms to create consistency in communications
- Developed business and communications plan to influence internal audience (culture) and external branding
- Mapped the customer experience and created plans to bridge gaps in the custom journey
- Launched internal leadership training using a variety of On-Purpose training programs
- Clarified key roles and responsibilities in the executive ranks
- Provided coaching services for key people
- Engaged fractional c-suite executives to bolster leadership gaps
Within a year, the CEO had a team of talented leaders and a successor identified and in place. He delayed his retirement for one year to create a more orderly transition of the management as well as the equity ownership of the business to a next generation of leaders.
The shift in the business from an entrepreneur-run to a professional leadership team spurred such a growth in the business that the new leaders were able to buy-out their previous owner well ahead of schedule from the proceeds of the business.