Why Key Managers and Young Owners Need To Be Thinking Succession.

October 01, 2020

Try to have a conversation with a 20 or 30+  owner or manager about the business exit strategy, and you’re bound to get blank looks. At last winter NAMM, I got my share.

Here’s a typical conversation.

Scenario 1.

JB- Hey Lew. Are you enjoying being the general manager at the music store?

Lew- Yea. The only problem I see, is that I got the promotion, I got the raise, but the owners are still doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I guess it’s hard for them to let go.

JB- Have you spoken to the owners about it?

Lew- Believe me I have tried. They just keep telling me they are too busy. So now I’m thinking-  that’s the reason why you promoted me- Isn’t it?

This scenario is all too common. Young key managers, who are supposedly being groomed to take over the the music business, are not being trained and often communication is poor. As a result the owners could be at risk of not having a trained manager when transition is approaching, or even worse, losing their appointed successor because of frustration.

Scenario 2

JB-Hi Mary Beth. Congratulations. You’ve been running your chain of stores successfully since your parents passed away 3 years ago . How’s it been going?

MB- I wish my parents went on vacation more often, so I would have realized what I didn’t know, and ask for more training. It took a while to ramp up, but I think we are out of the woods for now.

JB- It’s a common challenge. The aging owners are too busy to train, and think they have all the time in the world. Unfortunately life has a tendency of punching you in the face with this assumption. Have you identified your own successor?

MB- I have a great young man, who is very motivated. Our customers love him. Fantastic personality, great with sales, and he knows his numbers. I really should be more pro-active about starting his succession training, shouldn’t I?

Here again, I’ve heard this response too many times. I understand, that it’s hard to separate the urgent from important once you hit your desk. Business owners, are busy. Fires are always being put out. I’ve previously spoken about Stan Jay, the beloved owner of Mandolin Brothers. He ran out of time, and his children’s training was not complete. As a result the store had to shut down. Please remember… “tomorrow is promised to no man.”

What’s good for a succession plan is also good for business. The goal of having a written succession plan, is to make sure the business can continue to survive without the current owner. Regardless of  your age,  if the business can’t run without you, it’s worthless to the new owner. What are you waiting for?