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James Cannot Give Up Control

Updated: May 28


James grows up during the depression. Losing his mother at age one, he knows nothing but hard work his entire life. At age five, he starts working at his father's mercantile store, standing on soda crates to help bag groceries.


With an exceptional work ethic, James starts his own company when the opportunity presents itself. His company is wildly successful, doing sixty million dollars in revenue. He is impressive, having started from scratch with used equipment and rented property.


But James is a workaholic. His life revolves around work; it is his god. Making a profit to bless the community and advance a higher purpose is not his aim. James misses many opportunities to give back, foster relationships in the community, and be a blessing.


Fueled by his lack of trust, he also doesn't prepare anyone for the day he will not be around to run the business. Succession planning is a threat to his control over what he has built.


Work is his identity, and it controls him. Control becomes a high value in his life and keeps him from planning for the company to succeed one day in his absence.


James doesn't recognize and accept his responsibility to groom the company's next generation of leadership. This lack of planning flows out of his inflated need for control. James cannot stand to give up any control of his business.


His need for control is intoxicating. At age seventy-five, this excessive need for control fuels an idea that feels good to James but could jeopardize the business. Not having developed the next generation of leadership, he alone decides to pursue his new idea.


James pulls the trigger without input from others He starts a charitable foundation, with himself in charge, that will be a major philanthropic force for generations to come. And best of all, James gets to retain control of his wealth.


There is considerable irony here. James' idea will bless a lot of people for many succeeding generations. But there is a significant risk to the future of the company. The foundation isfunded by a multi-million dollar loan from the bank that the company will pay back over the next ten years. The loan strains the company over the next decade.


Remember, James is seventy-five. The bank loan can potentially strangle the company's growth over the next ten years. But the decision feels good to him as he gets to be in control of his wealth.


In two years, the company is straining under the large debt load, and James' health fails. Control of the company and his foundation passes on to second-generation leadership. This generation has not been mentored by James.


Most companies fail in their second generation of leadership, but James' company dodges a bullet. In his absence, the company continues to prosper and grow over the next few years. The foundation funds many good works, and the business loan will be paid off next year.


James' idea works, but the risk was unnecessary.


Entrepreneurs must recognize and accept their responsibility to mentor and train the next generation of leadership for their company. No one gets to drive forever, you give up your keys, or they are taken from you!


The need for control is a significant hindrance to succession planning. It need not be so. Entrepreneurs retain control when they steep the next generation of company leadership in their values. The succeeding generations of leadership allow the entrepreneur's story to live forever.


Business leaders are stewards in a relay race. Four things must be valid for them to win:

  1. Trust - Runners must trust other runners on the team

  2. Speed - The runners must be fast

  3. Baton Pass - Runners must pass the baton at top speed

  4. Handoff - Successful handoff is the key to winning

James struggled with trust. His control issues revolved around not being able to trust others to manage his business.


I want your business to make a profit, bless its community and advance its purpose in the world. Don't let the need for control keep that from happening.


To help fuel the succession planning value, I have created an asset, Fourteen Questions To Fuel Succession Planning Conversations. It is my gift to you. The sooner these conversations happen, the better for everyone involved. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD.



Harry T. Jones




*Like all my stories, Jame's story is real; names and some particulars are changed to protect the individuals involved.


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