time to get serious about planning for
the inevitable transition and exit from
the business. This milestone is getting
closer. It will come, even if only through
the owner’s death.
Transition –
The best opportunity to
exit can arise at any time. Sarah Coffin,
former CEO of Aspen Growth Strategies
LLC, acknowledges that as her firm con-
sidered acquiring businesses that were
for sale, it also strategically approached
“businesses who didn’t know they
wanted to be sold.”
• Observation: Waiting for some future
date to maximize an enterprise’s value
could sacrifice the chance for a best
• Strategy: An optimum exit, like a suc-
cessful operation, requires planning
and execution.
Owner as Leader
Myriad functions that make up the com-
mercial, operational, financial and strate-
gic pursuits of a business are highly
complex. It’s the very uncommon owner
who is best to lead every stage of a com-
pany’s development. In the Richards Cor-
poration case, the leader may boldly
bring in a great CEO and other new lead-
ers. As any business is daily confronted
by needs to adjust its operation or
approach, it can bolster the future of the
business by bringing in new enterprise or
functional leaders – people with the right
leadership style, proven track record, and
a fresh perspective.
Many businesses have stalled or de-
railed at some point in their life cycle.
One industry association president re-
lates that, for current business leaders
who had been successful in starting or
building their businesses and have now
hit a rough patch, they need to recognize
that “It’s so much harder to start a busi-
ness than it is to improve an existing one.
Owners don’t realize how quickly they
can turn it around.”
Indecisiveness in making leadership de-
cisions could mortgage a company’s fu-
ture. “It’s not what [the] organization should
do tomorrow,” once observed Peter
Drucker, the late dean of American busi-
ness. “It is ‘what do we have to do today to
be ready for an uncertain tomorrow.’”
Author Stanley H. Davis is founding
principal of Standish Executive Search,
the executive search firm advising
mid-size and smaller companies.
He also chairs the Boston Exit Planning
Exchange (XPX). He can be reached at
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