Working with many business owners over the years, one constant complaint has emerged – a lack of time.

Most owners have a list of things they would like to do if only they had more time. The things that get put onto this list are usually longer term in nature. Issues such as succession planning get set aside for the day when we’ll have a bit more time – a day that never comes.

For many owners, forced to stay at home and maybe having to mothball their business, the day has actually arrived, and now is that time.

Here are three specific tasks that you can do during this period which will help give direction to your business when things come back to normal. Note: each of these are taken from lessons which form part of the online Eternal Business Programme.

1. Being pulled not pushed. One of the major challenges for any business owner is to see beyond the business to what they might one day spend their time doing.

For many owners, especially founders, their business defines them. It is therefore key that when the day comes to exit, you feel that you are being pulled out of the business by something that excites you, rather than feeling that you are being pushed out of it.

If you struggle with picturing life beyond the business, try the following exercises:

  • Write down three adjectives that describe the things you love about your job. Now think about what else in your life might provide these
  • Ask your family and friends what they think would fulfil you outside of the business
  • Imagine you are at a party, and somebody asks the question so what do you do? Assuming you cannot use your business in your answer, how would you like to respond?

2. Creating governance. One significant change that often happens as part of a succession plan is that the shareholders and directors are no longer the same people. This may be an owner that retains shareholding when they leave the business, or perhaps the company is sold to an Employee Ownership Trust.

This exercise therefore involves reviewing the relationship between shareholder and board. Take a look at the last few board minutes. When you read them, imagine they are the minutes of a business in which you hold shares, but that you are not a director of.

Read through the decisions made by the board with this new dispassionate mindset. Are there any decisions that, if you were holding the board to account, you might want to question? When you question the decisions in this light, what criteria will you apply? How will you know what is a good board decision?

If you do not feel able to answer such questions, then maybe you need some independence on your board (something we can help with through our trusted expert service).

3. The Flag. What is your business for? The flag refers to the purpose of the business; the flag in the ground around which everyone gathers; the flag that the army follows into battle.

A common reason why owners find it hard to leave their business is that they are worried that the deeply personal reason they set the business up in the first place will not continue if they leave.

Spend this time to define (or review) your flag. One that is well defined, understood by all employees, and contains values that are shared by employees and clients alike, will go a long way and helping owners to let go and trust that the business will continue without them one day.

Defining that flag, however, is not easy. It should:

  • Not be liked by everyone (a purpose that is intended to please everyone will not mean a great deal to anyone)
  • Often come from a founder
  • Easily explained by every employee
  • Permeate through the business and affect everything that it does


Our Eternal Business Programme looks at each of these areas in much more detail. If you have the time and want to use it productively to come out of the other side better prepared, then get in touch.

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