How “Extreme Independence” wastes time in Founder/Successor relationships

by IdeaTransfer on May 22, 2011

Extreme Independence is a mistake IdeaTransfer has seen played out in scores of multigenerational firms over the past three decades—both with family members and nonfamily protégés.

Founders are locked on to their own story—which is a good thing for building the company culture and standards of excellence.  So how does it become such a bad thing for transferring knowledge, relationships, and leadership from founder to successor.

Founders are by definition entrepreneurs.  They faced sink-or-swim challenges repeatedly in building their success.  But the best successors aren’t cut from same entrepreneurial cloth.

They are adapters, not founder clones.  Their goal should be to make your business thrive by mastering change, not replay your success.  Different skills entirely.

Even if they were your clones, you can’t recreate the conditions that led to the founding of the business.  And just because you had to learn as-you-go from the bottom up doesn’t make that the best way to learn.  Where is the time to repeat three decades of fake-it-until-you-make-it?

You have five, maybe ten, years to pour your experience into the very willing mind of your successor.  Do you really think they will fail by missing out on your failures?  What is really going to make them succeed is taking physical, mental, and emotional ownership of the business on their terms—not yours.

Replace the sink-or-swim school with optimal integration.

That means turning the education of a successor into a collaborative enterprise.  Work independently or in concert as situations require, but always share what you are doing and why you are doing it.  Make every decision together even if your input weighs in heavier than theirs.

If you are a successor, tell us what do you think about sink-or-swim training—and what you see as the best alternative

If you are a founder, tell us how comfortable you are—or not—with what we referred to as an integration succession strategy.

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