Family business consulant

Underpromise and Overdeliver on your Exit Plan

The concept of under-promising and then over-delivering is not a new one, not by any stretch of the imagination. However, early this morning upon waking, I believe that I came up with a novel application of the idea.

My usual weekly blogging schedule has me selecting a subject on Thursday or Friday, writing on Saturday, reviewing and posting to my website on Sunday, and putting up a link on LinkedIn and Twitter on Monday.

I am composing this on Wednesday, July 1, which happens to be Canada Day. Perhaps it is the fact that as day off work, it felt a bit like a Saturday, which may have inspired me. But I think it was more a case of the confluence of a few things that I have been working on that so inspired me.

I recently committed to writing some longer content pieces, which I have dubbed the “Quick Start Guide Series”. The first such Guide is entitled “My Kids in My Business?”, and it is available on the Resources tab of my website.

It seems kind of lame having a “series” in which only the first output is available, so I have quickly begun working on the second piece, which will be called “Sticky Baton Syndrome – Ask Prince Charles” (working title), and which is slated for August 2015 release.

Let’s just say that I have been reading a lot of stuff that is out there about how to encourage the senior generation of leaders in family businesses to loosen their grip on passing the baton to the rising generation.

Simultaneously, I have recently been spending a good deal of time working with a colleague, who works the “wealth management” side of the street, and together we have been developing a methodology and tool for working with business family clients.

We are trying to find the most useful way to help them begin the process of planning for the intergenerational continuity of their enterprising families and the wealth contained therein.

We are tentatively calling it the “Blueprint”, and we are just entering trial mode with a select number of families as we work on the exact application and sequencing of the intervention.

What I can tell you for now is that I had a bit of an A-Ha moment when trying to figure out how to piece together the “Current Situation” part of the Blueprint and the “Next Era” portion.

(Basically, the Blueprint is a three-part affair: 1) Where are we now? 2) Where do we want to go? 3) How do we get there?. No reinventing the wheel, just structuring the discussion).

The trick, I discovered, is in setting the date for the “Next Era” part. You see, asking a business founder to picture things after they are gone is always a dubious proposition at best, so there are many nuances that need to be thought through.

For the purpose of illustration, we might exaggerate and invite the person to look at things in 2065. Can we agree that you will not be running and owning your business in 50 years? Unless we are dealing with a young entrepreneur, we all know what the right answer is.

So if 2065 is surely part of the “next era”, what about 2055? 2045? I think that you can see what I am doing here. But how far do you reel it back? As you get closer, you can step back in 5-year increments.

And where do you stop? Glad you asked, because this is where the “under-promise and over-deliver” comes in.

Why don’t we let “Dad” under-promise and choose a year that is “too far off”, and then as the plan comes together, and he can see how the rising generation is pulling up their socks and getting ready to take over, we can always let him “over-deliver” and in fact leave a few years ahead of the plan?

It sure beats the other way around.