Succession and Building a Small Business Empire

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Succession and Building a Small Business Empire

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Many small business owners and CEO’s wonder what they’ll do next. Many are not serial entrepreneurs but they are passionate about the work that they do. What happens as the window of their reign starts to close? Have they prepared the organization to continue, will there be successful succession?

It is interesting to ask the small business CEO, “Who is number two?” It is not uncommon that they’ll flinch and squirm a little. Certainly, it is understandable, it is their business, but they probably aren’t preparing appropriately for what is next.

Considering that they are a successful CEO, they probably will have trouble admitting that they haven’t really been looking or building the team. In fact, they’ll likely argue that they have but that true talent eludes their operation.

Largely, this is confirmation bias for why they are still at the reins.


Is it true that no talent is available to fill some spots? Can it be that it is too challenging to line up a few possibilities for number two, three, or four?

Every human resources leader, manager, and CEO should consider a few key elements for the atmosphere of onboarding.

Does the organizational culture for both current and advertised positions have the following dynamics?

  1. Trust. People (employees) are encouraged to take action, not wait for permission to move.
  2. Movers. Many small businesses hire to lock someone in, not provide a path for growth.
  3. Risk takers. Certainly, you don’t want someone to sink the ship, but risk within bounds of authority is important for organizational advancement.
  4. Experts. Good enough is only good enough, it is not high performance. Hire (or create) experts, they desire more, they will create more.
  5. Confidence. A culture that honors achievements and exceeding expectations. It builds confidence, and confidence is a desired cultural attribute.
  6. Investment. Invest in employees and they’ll be much more likely to invest in you.
  7. Respect. Everything starts within the team. Respect is mutual, not one way. A lack of respect is a momentum stopper.

Business Empire

Many small business owners hire to fill labor requirements. They equate the process to hiring a house painter, someone to cut the lawn, or shovel the snow.

Nothing is wrong with any of these jobs or the people performing the work. The trouble spot is that the culture provides no growth. Most of all the mindset is to hire for fit. In this case, fit means just this position, all day, every day, for the rest of time.

Unfortunately, sometimes the owner, CEO, or board of directors, does not prepare early enough to make an appropriate difference.

As the window starts to close is the organization prepared?


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant and succession coach who helps organizations and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a five-time author and some of his work includes, #CustServ The Customer Service Culture, and Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+

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