Racing on after the handoff

Your company has changed hands, the next generation is in charge, the business has survived and family dinners are still pleasant.

All’s well that ends well, right? Wrong. Just like the relay team whose last runner has successfully grabbed the baton, there is still a race to be won. And while only one runner can lead the field at a time, it is up to his teammates to support and cheer him on.

If you are the predecessor in a succession plan, here are your keys to success.

* Step off the track without colliding into oncoming runners. Complete your transition of power, accountability and ownership of assets and liabilities. Don’t drag your feet, or you may hinder your successor’s progress.

* Cheer on your team. Encourage your new leaders. Become a mentor, not a backseat driver.

* Run another leg when asked to. If a member of the new team runs into trouble and your successor asks, agree to temporarily do this job. While it may not be your ideal retirement, in a crisis, your trusted hand can be a great source of confidence to employees, vendors and customers.

As the successor, what are your keys to success?

* Power past the handoff without colliding into other runners. Complete your transition of power, accountability and ownership of assets and liabilities. It is your race to win, and if you falter, your predecessor did the best he could.

* Accept coaching and cheering from your team. While you have the baton now, it can be lonely leading the pack. Accept their counsel. You make the decisions now, but don’t have to do so on your own.

* Shuffle your team if you are losing the race. If a member of your new team runs into trouble, and your predecessor can, ask him to temporarily do a needed job.

Succession is the toughest challenge facing a family business. Much like in a relay race, where individual stars must work together for collective results, the management handoff is the scene of great success or spectacular defeat.

Whether you are giving it or taking it, make sure the company’s baton is firmly in one’s hand at all times, then run as hard as you can. Andy Birol is president of Birol Growth Consulting, a Solon-based firm that helps grow businesses by growing their best and highest uses. Reach him at (440) 349-1970 or at