Let’s face it, most entrepreneurs plan to sell their companies. They have visions of closing the deal, taking the check, and riding off into the sunset. It’s a nice vision, but one that rarely plays out in the real world. In many smaller companies, the founders have their fingerprints on everything—they are too fundamental to the success of the endeavor for new owners to let them leave right away. Unless people and processes are in place as tangible assets that can be acquired, almost all acquisitions will require the founder(s) to stay on for 6-24 months. Yet, the reality is that most entrepreneurs will be miserable in their new middle management roles and won’t last a year—many cut deals to get out even if it means leaving money on the table. It’s not quite the happy picture that many had envisioned.
So can entrepreneurs avoid this fate? At some point, a business has to make itself as a whole better than the sum of a few key individuals. What’s needed is the creation of systems and processes that break down and document core business functions, so that others can learn to achieve the same results as the top performers. Many entrepreneurs at first don’t believe that they can teach others to do things as well as they can, and they are surprised that their actions contain steps that can be defined, documented, and delegated. Yet, these “playbooks” and systems for your growing company are what will make the core functions of your business efficient and sustainable. They also create an operational competitive advantage for the organization, reducing the risk posed by the departure of key personnel and making the success of the business less dependent on the company’s founders.