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5 Steps for a Smooth and Successful (CEO) Exit

CEO Tips - TBM Payroll, NY

This article comes from Entrepreneur.

5 Steps for a Smooth and Successful (CEO) Exit

Disengaging from the company you’ve been a part of, or even created, can be a difficult process — mentally, physically and emotionally. But, certain steps can be put in place in order to have a seamless and successful exit. Here are five of them:

Take the lead.

If you’re the CEO of a publicly-traded company, the executive board has the responsibility to name your successor; however, there’s nothing that says you can’t be involved in the process. In fact, it’s the responsibility of the CEO to craft a plan for a successful transition, and eventually, an exit.

A survey by the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) revealed that CEO succession ranked fourth on a list of top priorities for directors. Also, fewer than half, or 48 percent, of directors believed their boards were spending enough time on CEO succession, down from 62 percent in 2014, according to a survey by PwC.

Plan early.

When is the right time to begin planning your CEO exit? The answer depends on the company, but the short answer is: Start as soon as possible.

The time frame to execute the exit plan will vary due to a number of factors, but ideally, the plan should be executed in a two-to-three-year time span. The succession of a CEO is a lengthy process, especially if the exit pertains to a founder or a long-tenured executive. Anything under two years might seem rushed and could make for a sloppy and messy transition. A Korn Ferry Institute study found that 66 percent of respondents named “starting too late” with a succession plan one of their top three or four risks. Seventy-two percent of those surveyed were fearful of starting the process before agreeing on a strategy.

Step up your game.

As someone who is departing the organization, you’ll be juggling a number of things simultaneously. However, two things stick out as essential throughout the process: 1) You must prepare the organization for the transition; and 2) You should prepare yourself for your next role, whatever that may be.

Part of stepping up your game involves getting everyone at the company — from board members to senior staff, to managers, everyone, to step up. This is bigger than just you. Here’s what you can do:

  • Encourage the board to assess the organizational plan currently in place. If you don’t have one, it might be a good time to start creating one
  • Assess the roles and responsibilities of the job. Is there anything that needs to change from the way current or past CEOs did the job? Don’t dust up an old document; this is the time for a change.

Resist the urge to maintain the status quo. One thing that sticks in my craw is when people say, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” To me, that’s lazy. Avoid falling into that trap. Change is good!

Keep your word.

Once the departure date has been determined, it must be adhered to. If the goalpost keeps being moved, there’s a risk of losing every bit of momentum gained and the CEO’s personal reputation may also take a hit.

However, if as the outgoing CEO you agree to remain in the organization in an advisory role, this can have a long-lasting, positive impact, according to a Bridgespan Group survey. The survey revealed that for long-term CEOs, 80 percent of their organizations reported a more successful transition when the CEO stayed on in an advising role than when the CEO made a clean break (64 percent).

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