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The Silent Killer of Founder Owned Businesses

D. Scot Hunsaker

December 27, 2018

"In the entrepreneurial world we have a silent killer. We don't talk about it very much, but it can put an end to a lifetime of hard work and planning. We owners take all of the risks and sometimes withering criticism and we start a business because we believe in what we and the business could accomplish in the world. Then, over time we build a thriving organization. It hums along, makes money, benefits everyone involved, meets customer demand, and helps the community grow and prosper. All good so far. But then we decide to make our exit, or the decision is made for us by health or family issues or other business interests. So, now what happens? Well, at least two thirds of the time, the business ceases operations, with all of the collateral damage that does. It happens because we never transition the company to the next generation of leaders, not because we don't know how, but because we never get around to it. As CEO's and entrepreneurs, perhaps we think it will never happen to us, that maybe we have discovered the fountain of youth. A recent Wall Street Journal/Vistage poll showed that half of all business owners say that they have a succession plan, but only 25 percent have actually put pen to paper and written it down. I would contend that if you haven't written down your succession plan you don't really have one. It doesn't have to be this way."

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