Top Ten Reasons Founders Won’t Let Go

Doud Hausner and Associates

Those of you who have heard Ernie Doud speak about frustrations in the world of family businesses have probably heard this “Top Ten” list. We’ve gotten so many requests for copies of the article that a version is reprinted with his permission. With apologies to David Letterman, here they are:

10. “Too many people I’ve known have died soon after they retired (or acted like they were dead).”

There’s no correlation between mortality and retirement. However, it helps to develop interests outside the business to which you can turn your attention.

9. “Without me, the business is nothing.”

Get your ego down to a more realistic size. In fact, under your successors, the business may evolve in ways you’ve never imagined.

8. “Without the business, I’m nothing.”

It doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” proposition. There are many constructive ways you can maintain your identity and connection with the business. spend time with your successors and trusted advisors investigating all the possibilities.

7. “I hate gardening, find cruises boring, and get sunburned if I play too much golf.”

So find other leisure activities that excite you. Do those things you’ve always wanted to do, but for which you never had the time (We know one founder who rekindled his interest in music. His combo now appears in jazz festivals all over the world).

6. “I need someplace to go.”

My wife keeps reminding me she married me for better or for worse–but not for lunch! There is no denying the fact that major changes can add new stresses to any relationship. If you don’t develop a new focus on your life, then you’re liable to have time on your hands while your spouse maintains her/his normally busy schedule. To help avoid unnecessary post-retirement stress in your marriage, re-read numbers 8 and 7.

5. “The ‘kids’ want to change the way the business is run. If I’m not there, they will change what I’ve built!”

If the business doesn’t change to keep up with new demands, it will suffer. If you took from a previous generation, you made changes. And if you are the founder, the business has changed from the first day it started. Businesses can thrive on infusions of fresh ideas and energy.

4. “I don’t want to choose between my ‘kids’ to name a successor.”

Well, you could let them “duke it out” after you’re gone. Better yet, involve them in the decision. If you have a strategic vision and plan for the business it will be easier to determine who has the skills and talents needed to lead it.

3. “The business is my major source of income. I have to stay active to protect it.”

There are a vast array of strategies for turning your illiquid business investment into an asset that can provide a stream of retirement income. Check them out!

2. “Nobody can run the business as well as I can.”

You may not realize it, but you’re probably not the only one running your business now. You may make major decisions, but chances are, you’re not involved in all the details. Step back! Look around. You may find untapped potential.

1. “They may run it better than I did!”

And what’s wrong with that? Don’t let your ego get in the way. Comprehensive succession planning that is done well will help your business thrive under the next generation. This is one of the most important legacies you can create.