Contributed by: Lou Polic A transition, by its very nature, takes time. It is a process. An evolution from one state to the next; from one way of doing, living, and being to another. I would like to share with you my perspective: the perspective of a founder who, after twenty years of holding the reigns of the business he built from the ground-up, carefully and successfully passed those reigns on to the next generation.
I had no blueprint to follow. No case studies to draw on, no shining examples of how to do it. In fact, what I had seen were shining examples of how not to do it. I’d witnessed terrible transitions where truly great and more than capable first generation owners lost everything because they didn’t have the tools to navigate the succession process. Court cases ensued, families were divided, and wounds were opened that never healed.
So, what made our process so successful? Ivan and Mariana worked hard to gain a deeper understanding of Loutech, traversing right back to the origins of the business to find the values I held dear as I ran it from those very early, turbulent days. To have those values, which I couldn’t put into words myself, brought up to the surface was a pivotal moment in our transition process. This quest for a deeper understanding progressed and by the time they naturally uncovered what they have termed ‘the success DNA of Loutech’, I really knew, as well as I could, that they had got it – that they understood the business, that they understood me, and it was time for me to let go.
I had the energy to stay. I could have stayed for another ten years, but in those ten years I may have operated from a place of resistance, I may have been unmoving and static, and I may have strangled the company and put my relationship with my son in jeopardy. I took a deep breath and I loosened my grip.
We began slowly. I spent a few months away in Europe, but I was only ever a phone call away. I became a presence to call on. And, of course – the calls came, and I was thankful for them. I wanted to help, to be more than a spectator. And I still do. There was no need to completely let go, but what I did need to do was allow Ivan and Mariana the freedom to do things their way. I had to let them in as the next generation and let them learn. I had to be supportive of their ideas but also allow them to make mistakes.
It’s a well-worn analogy to compare your business to a baby, to draw similarities with the way you have nurtured it and been dedicated to its survival, growth and success for such a long time. But you can’t be there forever – nobody can be there forever. You must change, adapt, accept, and provide room for learning to occur.
Throughout the succession process I always worked from a place of love for my family. I gave them my love and my trust. Now, almost ten years on, I operate at a purely advisory level. I’m still only a phone call away, but I don’t wait for those calls. If anything drastic were to happen and they needed me, I would be there, at their side, working a way through. But in letting go and stepping back I have created space in my life for so much more. I’ve been able to explore my interest in organic agriculture: growing, working with soil, the earth. I’m full of energy and curiosity, and underlying it all is a sense of peace that we did it – we survived the transition process and we came out the other side a happier, more fulfilled family.
My advice to you, whether you are a founder, or a second, third or even fourth generation leader: Open your heart. Share your soul. Trust people. Once you’re in a place where you can give, or let others in, everything else flows with ease. I gave it up gracefully, and so can you.
The knowledge you have gained over the years, the lessons you have learnt – that stays inside of you. It’s not material and no one can take it away. Money doesn’t bring happiness and business is just one element of life, but it isn’t all you have, or all you will leave behind. Show humanity in this cold world and above all else, do all you can to keep harmony in your family.
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